Iraq tells Turkey to withdraw troops

At least several hundred Turkish soldiers have been deployed to provide training in northern Iraq’s Mosul region

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Iraqi President Fouad Massoum on Saturday called the deployment of several hundred Turkish troops inside Iraq near the northern city of Mosul “a violation of international norms and law.”

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad on Saturday to protest at the deployment of Turkish forces near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and demand their immediate withdrawal.

The ministry said in a statement that the Turkish forces had entered Iraqi territory without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad, and that Iraq considered such presence “a hostile act.”

But Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the troop rotation was routine and the camp had originally been set up in coordination with Iraqi authorities.

A Turkish security source said on Friday the forces would provide training for Iraqi troops near Mosul, which is controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Iraq’s prime minister and foreign ministry have called for Turkey to withdraw its forces.

In an online statement, Massoum also called on Turkey to withdraw the troops and asked Iraq’s Foreign Ministry to take the necessary measures “to preserve the country's sovereignty and independence.”

ISIS militants overran Mosul in June 2014. A much anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces has been repeatedly postponed because they are tied down in fighting elsewhere.

Davutoglu said the camp, located some 30 km (19 miles) northeast of Mosul, was set up almost a year ago at the Mosul governor’s request and in coordination with the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

“This camp was established as a training camp for a force of local volunteers fighting terrorism,” he said in a speech to a labor union that was broadcast live by NTV news channel.

“It has trained more than 2,000 of our Mosul brothers, contributing to the freeing of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization,” he said.

A senior Kurdish military officer based north of Mosul told Reuters that additional Turkish trainers had arrived at a camp in the area overnight on Thursday escorted by a Turkish protection force.

A small number of Turkish trainers was already at the camp to train a force called Hashid Watani (national mobilization), which is made up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.

The United States was aware of Turkey’s deployment of hundreds of Turkish soldiers to northern Iraq but the move is not part of the U.S.-led coalition’s activities, according to defense officials in Washington.

Powerful Iraqi Shiite Muslim armed groups have pledged to fight a planned deployment of U.S. forces to the country. Turkey has in recent months been bombing Kurdish militant positions in northern Iraq.

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