Turkish troops will remain in Iraq to continue the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to make sure that no change to the region’s “demographic structure” is imposed, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has vowed.
“Whatever the Iraqi government in Baghdad says, the Turkish presence there [in the Bashiqa region] will remain for the fight against ISIL and to make sure that the demographic structure of the region is not being changed by force,” said Yıldırım, addressing a trade and industry meeting in Ankara on Oct. 6.
He added that at a time when there were troops from 63 countries in Iraq to fight against terror, concern over the Turkish presence in the country was “absurd” and had “nothing to do with good intentions.”
“Iraq’s reaction to Turkey’s military presence at the Bashiqa army base north of Mosul is “a fool’s errand” since there are soldiers from 63 countries in Iraq, the prime minister said, adding that Turkey aimed to ensure that more blood was not spilled in the region.
“Iraq is wasting its time by fixating on Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa, when there are troops from 63 different countries under the name of fighting Daesh [ISIL] and other terrorist organizations,” he said. The prime minister stressed that Iraq’s reaction came ahead of a Mosul offensive planned in October.
Yıldırım also criticized the central Iraqi administration for failing to take any precautions against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements in northern Iraq.
A resolution adopted by Iraq’s parliament criticizing the Turkish military presence at the Bashiqa base in northern Iraq does not represent all of Iraqis, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said, describing the move as ill-intended.
“First of all, we don’t regard the statement of the Iraqi Parliament about the annually renewed motion in the Turkish parliament as well-intentioned. We very well know that this does not reflect the thinking of all of the Iraqi people,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference with visiting Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic late on Oct. 5.
Recalling that Turkey had been renewing a motion granting authority to the Turkish army to conduct cross-border operations and to deploy troops in Iraq every year since 2007 because of “terror threats against the Turkish people,” Çavuşoğlu underlined that the scope of the authorization was broadened after ISIL began posing a threat against Turkey.
“We wish that Iraq could provide for its own security and stability and not permit these terror organizations’ presence on their territories. Unfortunately, the current picture in Iraq and divisions affect its ties with regional countries,” he said.
Blaming former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for pursuing sectarian policies which paved the way for terror organizations like ISIL to find an opportunity to occupy Mosul, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had to take its own measures to provide for its security against both ISIL and the PKK.
“Still, we support Iraq’s fight against terror. The Bashiqa camp was not founded recently. It was established within the knowledge of the Iraqi government with the objective of training local forces against Daesh,” he said.
Forces at the Bashiqa camp have killed more than 750 ISIL militants so far, added the minister.
Officials from Baghdad visited the camp and provided financial assistance, Çavuşoğlu said, recalling that Turkey’s training efforts had become an issue as a result of problems within Iraqi internal politics.
“Our stance is clear. We want a strong and stable Iraq. We attach great importance to Iraq’s territorial integrity and independence. The division of Iraq or instability inside the country is not in our interest,” he said. “We do not want to see a sectarian Iraq. We regard the entire Iraqi people as our brothers.”
Iraq has formally called on the United Nations Security Council to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the Turkish military presence in Camp Bashiqa in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, according to a Foreign Ministry statement issued on Oct. 6.
Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said Baghdad had called on the Security Council to “shoulder its responsibilities vis-à-vis Iraq and issue a resolution that would halt violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by Turkish forces.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Oct. 6 that Baghdad consented to the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa to train the Nineveh province’s Sunni volunteer forces.
“Two training bases were set up in Bashiqa and Dubardan near Mosul to train the police and Nineveh province’s volunteer forces,” said Safeen Dizayee, adding that “the KRG facilitated the process.”
He revealed that even “the [ousted] Iraqi defense minister, Khalid al-Obedi, had visited the Turkish military bases near Mosul.”
Dizayee reiterated that the KRG “is not aware of any other program in this regard.”