Turkish troops will not exit Iraq, prime minister vows as row deepens

Turkish troops stationed in Iraq will not exit the country, Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday amid growing tensions between the two neighbours as Baghdad demands a withdrawal and is taking the matter to the UN.

"The Turkish existence is going to remain there," Yildirim said in a speech in Ankara, adding that the troops are stationed in Iraq to prevent "changes to the demographic structure."

His comment came shortly after Iraq requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the "breach of Iraqi sovereignty."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also irked the Iraqis by implying that Shiite Muslims should not be allowed to live in Mosul, in northern Iraq, after it is freed from Islamic State, a Sunni extremist group that controls the key city since mid- 2014.

Iraq Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said that the request had been made by Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohammed al-Hakim, to talk about "the Turkish side's transgressions and interferences."

"The request includes a demand to the Security Council to take a resolution that would end the Turkish troops' breach of the Iraqi sovereignty and the Turkish side's non-respect for principles of good neighbourliness," Jamal said.

Turkey says it keeps soldiers in Iraq to train local fighters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Thursday renewed his demand for the troops' withdrawal.

“There are contradictory statements from the Turkish side,” al-Abadi told a gathering of provincial officials in Baghdad

“There was no request from the [Iraqi] government for their entry,” he added, referring to the Turkish forces.

The government in Baghdad is a Shiite-dominated cabinet and Turkey has voiced concerns that the military uses Shiite militias to help in its battle against Islamic State.

On Wednesday, Iraq and Turkey summoned each other's ambassadors. A day earlier, Iraq's parliament passed a resolution sharply condemning Turkey's military presence in the country and called for a quick withdrawal.

The legislative body also denounced Erdogan's comments as "divisive and seditious" and suggested reviewing all ties to Turkey.

Last week, Turkey's parliament passed a resolution extending a mandate authorizing the military to carry out cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria.

Last update: Thu, 06/10/2016 - 15:16

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