A number of Turkish troops stationed at Bashiqa Camp near Mosul on Dec. 14 were transferred to a region under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, Turkish sources told Hürriyet Daily News.
The troops, with a 10- or 12-vehicle convoy including tanks, left the camp on Dec. 14, and will not return to Turkey at the moment, according to sources.
The decision came after the international community put pressure on Ankara over Baghdad’s harsh reaction to the deployment of Turkish soldiers to the camp, though Turkey continues to keep some of its troops stationed inside.
In a televised interview on Dec. 14, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “a group of soldiers” were pulled out due to a “military necessity.”
Necessary steps have been taken for a “new arrangement” of troops, he said, adding their presence would continue for military training.
“We are ready for any kind of cooperation,” Davutoğlu said.
It was not immediately clear how many soldiers were transferred from the camp, but a Peshmerga commander reportedly suggested 144 Turkish soldiers left the camp, leaving 450 behind.
Iraq appealed to the United Nations Security Council on Dec. 11 to demand an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Turkish troops from northern Iraq, calling Turkey’s military incursion a “flagrant violation” of international law.
“We call on the Security Council to demand that Turkey withdraw its forces immediately… and not to violate Iraqi sovereignty again,” Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said in a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, president of the Security Council, this month.
“This is considered a flagrant violation of the principles of the U.N. Charter, and a violation of Iraqi territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Iraq,” the letter said, according to an unofficial translation of the Arabic original.
Turkey argued the additional troops were needed to protect its trainers, who have been on a training mission since March, from an increased Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threat against Turkish soldiers. Turkey markedly increased the number of deployed troops on Dec. 4, saying the jihadist threat had increased in the region.
The office of Turkish prime ministry said on Dec. 11 it would reorganize its military personnel at the Bashiqa camp after talks with Iraqi officials to settle the dispute. Last week President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said it was out of the question that the troops would withdraw entirely from Iraq.