Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkish troops had been stationed at a military base in northern Iraq at the request of Iraq’s leader since 2014, but Iraq had not made it an issue until this week, al-Jazeera reported on Dec. 9.
“We were asked by Prime Minister al-Abadi to help train soldiers and, at his request, we set up a training camp in Bashiqa in 2014,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying by the Qatar-based channel.
Erdoğan said Abadi “did not say a word until just now” because of developments in the region.
On Dec. 5, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador to demand that Turkey immediately withdraw hundreds of troops deployed in recent days to northern Iraq, near the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled city of Mosul.
The Iraqi ministry said in a statement 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”.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Dec. 9 that the Turkish soldiers were dispatched to Iraq after a threat from ISIL militants to Turkish military trainers in the area increased and the deployment was an act of solidarity, not aggression.
“These trainers in Bashiqa camp were threatened by Daesh [ISIL] because it is 15-20 km from Mosul and they have only light arms,” he told a group of foreign journalists in Istanbul.
Erdoğan told al-Jazeera that the Turkish troops stationed at the camp were mostly trainers. The Turkish leader also blamed the policies of Iraq and Iran for the rise of sectarianism in the war in neighboring Syria.