Iraq, Turkey agree on withdrawing troops from Bashiqa

Baghdad, Jan 7 (IANS) Turkey and Iraq on Saturday agreed on the withdrawal of Turkish troops from a military base in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa near the stronghold of the Islamic State in Mosul.

“We have discussed the Iraqi demand of withdrawing Turkish forces from Bashiqa, and the Turkish side confirmed that they will solve the issue of their troops’ presence in Bashiqa soon,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim, Xinhua reported.

“We have agreed on non-interference in internal affairs of each country and vowed to respect the sovereignty of both countries,” Abadi said after meeting Yildirim.

For his part, Yildirim explained that the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa was to train and arm local forces to fight the IS group, saying “the withdrawal of Turkish forces will be achieved later.”

“We will not accept any action to threaten Iraq’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. Turkey is exerting effort to fight terrorist groups and seeking to impose security in the whole region,” Yildirim said.

He said that at the meeting with Iraqi officials it was also agreed to boost the level of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries on the reconstruction of areas affected by terrorism.

Yildirim, accompanied by a delegation of Turkish ministers and top officials, arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for a two-day visit to end the diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Yildirim is also expected to visit Arbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan to meet Kurdish leaders, including the region’s President Masoud Barzani.

Since 2015, hundreds of Turkish soldiers have been deployed in Bashiqa camp, some 30 km northeast of Mosul.

The presence of the Turkish troops led to a dispute between Iraq and Turkey, as Baghdad repeatedly said Turkish forces violated Iraq’s sovereignty by entering the country without permission.

However, Ankara said that Turkish soldiers were sent to Bashiqa at the request of Abadi, and that their presence was aimed at training both Peshmerga fighters and local tribal volunteers to combat IS militants in Mosul.