Turkey to stop sending troops to Iraq

Iraq will turn to the UN Security Council if Turkish troops were not withdrawn within 48 hours.

FILE:  Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters hold their movement’s flag while a Turkish soldier looks at them. Picture: AFP.

BAGHDAD/ANKARA - Turkey said on Sunday it would halt further transfers of troops to an area near the Islamic State-controlled Iraqi city of Mosul after Baghdad threatened to appeal to the United Nations to force Turkey to withdraw its soldiers.

Turkey deployed hundreds of forces to a camp in the Bashiqa region of northern Iraq on Thursday, calling it a routine rotation to train Iraqis to retake Mosul from Islamic State, which captured Iraq's second-largest city in 2014.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his country might turn to the UN Security Council if Turkish troops sent to northern Iraq were not withdrawn within 48 hours.

He said the deployment of hundreds of Turkish forces happened without the approval or knowledge of the Iraqi government and constituted a violation of national sovereignty.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wrote a letter to Abadi, saying Turkey's armed forces would not send additional forces until Baghdad's "sensitivities" were placated. He stopped short of agreeing to Abadi's demand to withdraw the soldiers.

"No further forces will be deployed to Bashiqa until concerns of the Iraqi government are overcome," the letter said, according to sources at the prime minister's office in Ankara.

Davutoglu earlier said the activity was a routine troop rotation to support a camp that Turkish forces had previously set up at the Mosul governor's request and in coordination with the Iraqi Defence Ministry.

MOSUL MISSION REPEATEDLY POSTPONED

A much-anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State has been repeatedly postponed because they are tied down in fighting elsewhere.

Iraq has urged the international community to provide more weapons and training in its battle against the militants, but rejects most forms of direct intervention, mistrusting the intentions of foreign powers.

A small number of Turkish trainers were already at the camp near Mosul before the latest deployment in order to train the Hashid Watani (national mobilisation), a force made up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.