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Baghdad turns to U.N. as Turks keep troops in Iraq

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani was the latest in rejecting Turkish troops deployment

Published: Updated:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi instructed his foreign ministry to lodge a formal complaint at the U.N. Security Council over the continued presence of Turkish forces, asking it to order Turkey to withdraw its troops from Iraq immediately.

President Tayyip Erdogan declared on Friday he would not bow to Iraqi demands he withdraw Turkish troops from a camp close to the ISIS-held city of Mosul.

A row over the deployment has soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which denies having agreed to it. Ankara says the troops were sent as part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight ISIS.

The latest comments indicated continuing tensions despite the Turkish prime minister’s office saying agreement was reached in talks with Iraq to deepen security cooperation and “reorganize” military personnel at the Bashiqa camp.

“There is no way we can withdraw our soldiers from northern Iraq now,” Erdogan told a news conference. “There was a deployment, not for combat, but to protect soldiers providing training there.”

“We will continue the training process decisively,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia said it sees Iraq as an extremely important partner in the fight against terrorism, RIA news agency cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday.

Lavrov’s statement comes after Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was the latest in rejecting Turkish troops’ deployment. He called on the government on Friday to show “no tolerance” of any infringement of the country’s sovereignty after Turkey deployed heavily armed troops to northern Iraq.

Sistani’s spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala’i, did not explicitly name Turkey, but a row over the deployment has badly soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which denies having agreed to it.

Sistani also said Iraq’s neighbors should not send any troops to Iraq “under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” except with the approval of the Baghdad government.

“The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting Iraq’s sovereignty and must not tolerate and side that infringes upon on it, whatever the justifications and necessities,” Karbalai’i said in a weekly sermon.

Meeting

Meanwhile, Erdogan said there would be a trilateral meeting between Turkey, the United States and Kurdish northern Iraqi authorities on Dec. 21 but made no mention of talks with Baghdad.

Later on Thursday, prime ministerial sources said PM Ahmet Davutoglu had at the request of U.S. officials spoken to Vice President Joe Biden.

Davutoglu told Biden that Turkey co-ordinating with Iraq in its efforts to tackle ISIS, and that a letter to the Iraqi prime minister laying out the Turkish position was being delivered by a high-level delegation which included Turkey’s spy chief, Hakan Fidan.

“He expressed that Turkey will continue to contribute to the government of our friend Iraq’s fight against (ISIS), in coordination with Baghdad,” one source added. The White House confirmed the call had taken place.

Speaking to his counterpart earlier this week, the Turkish foreign minister emphasized Ankara’s respect for Iraqi territorial integrity and said further troop deployments had been halted for now.