Turkish PM seeks to calm row with Iraq over troops

Baghdad says it did not ask Ankara to deploy forces to the country's north to train and equip Iraqi forces.

    Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister, has said he wants to visit Baghdad as soon as possible to try to calm a row over Turkish troops deployed to train their Iraqi counterparts in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

    Turkey says its latest deployment of soldiers to northern Iraq is part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi forces.

    The Iraqi government says it never invited such a force and will take its case to the United Nations if it is not pulled out.

    Iraq-Turkey diplomatic spat seen from Erbil

    Davutoglu said Turkish troops were in Iraq to prevent a possible attack from ISIL and that those who interpreted their presence differently were involved in "deliberate provocation".

    He said more than 2,000 people had received training at the camp in northern Iraq.

    Turkey has halted the deployment of troops for now but will not withdraw those already there, according to its foreign ministry.

    In a phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart on Monday, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish foreign minister, reiterated Ankara's respect for Iraq's territorial integrity, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said.

    Iraq had, on Sunday, given Turkey 48 hours to withdraw the forces or face "all available options".

    "In the absence of the withdrawal of these forces within 48 hours, Iraq has the right to use all available options," a statement from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said.

    The Turkish forces entered "without the approval or knowledge of the Iraqi government", the statement said.

    Political analysts saw last week's deployment in northern Iraq by Turkey, which has the second biggest army in NATO, as a bid to assert its influence in the face of increased Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria and Iraq.

    "Turkey seems to be angling to prove to the Russians and Iranians that they will not be allowed to have either the Syrian or Iraqi war theatres only to themselves," said Aydin Selcen, former consul-general of Turkey in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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