‘Out of question’: Erdogan rules out Turkish troop withdrawal from Iraq

© Kai Pfaffenbach
The withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraq is out of question, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, promising to “cooperate” on the issue with the US-led anti-ISIS coalition. Baghdad has condemned the “invasion” as a breach of international law.

“Our servicemen went to Iraq as instructors, their mission is limited to training,” Erdogan claimed during a news conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

“It is out of the question, at present, that Turkey will pull out its military from Iraq,” he stressed.

The Turkish leader made no mention of possible talks with Iraqi authorities to resolve the controversy. Commenting on the United Nations Security Council’s failure to produce any statement on the incident as per Russia’s request, Erdogan said that Turkey “will follow the process” but “has chosen to cooperate with the international coalition.”

READ MORE: Moscow expects ‘unpredictable’ Ankara will avoid further reckless actions

Erdogan however announced a trilateral meeting between Turkey, Northern Iraq Kurdish leaders and US officials scheduled to take place on December 21, according to AP.

Last week, Turkey deployed about 150 troops and 25 tanks to a base in Iraq’s Nineveh province, without bothering to get permission from Baghdad. Ankara argued that its soldiers were sent to northern Iraq after a threat from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) to Turkish military instructors training anti-terrorist forces in the area.

Baghdad condemned the move saying it had not asked for the help of Turkish forces and did not authorize the new deployment, calling it a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

Erdogan lies, Turkish invasion not authorized by Baghdad – Iraqi MPs

The Iraqi parliament has decided to invite the country’s foreign and defense ministers to its session on Sunday to discuss the government’s response, Razzaq Mihebis, an MP from the Iraqi Badr bloc,told RT. Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq was also summoned to the parliament on Thursday, he added.

“Objections were expressed to him over such actions, with the ambassador also [being] handed a demand ... [for] the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the territory of Iraq,” Mihebis said.

The MP also commented on Erdogan’s previous claims to Al Jazeera that Turkish troops were in Iraq at the request of the country’s prime-minister, Haider al-Abadi.

“It’s a lie. This statement has nothing to do with reality … the Turkish troops have entered Iraq as invaders without a request from Iraqi government and without its permission,” he said.

Mihebis also confirmed media reports of Turkish airstrikes targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) forces in northern Iraq on Wednesday. He called the bombings “a new violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and of international law by Turkey.”

“If Turkey does not withdraw its troops and the Security Council, the Arab League and the international community will continue to idle, we will find a way to protect our legal rights,” Iraqi MP from the State of Law bloc, Awatif Nima, told RT.

“Without a doubt, all that Erdogan said today is not true, because there is no agreement or any coordination between Erdogan and Iraqi government,” the Iraqi MP added. “In the area [of Turkish troops deployment] there is no Iraqi armed forces. There are only terrorist groups’ camps.”

Baghdad still hopes to resolve the situation and continue “friendly relations” with Turkey, but, the reality of it is that Turkey did invade Iraqi territory and will never withdraw voluntarily, said Nima.

“This is the violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” Nima stated. “Of course, we express our determined protest against this Turkish attack and the invasion of our territory.”

Nima thinks that what Turkey is doing is trying to divide the country based along the sectarian lines.

“Joe Biden offered the last Iraqi government to divide Iraq, but the government categorically refused. Today as similar type of offer was offered to our government from Turkey; but the government did not accept [such proposal] and refused to coordinate action with Turkey’s government,” Nima said.

Turkey’s intervention, Nima stated, will only further empower the Islamic State. Nima said that during the parliamentary debates on the subject, the politicians saw footage which shows Turkish troops not touching ISIS fighters located right “in front of them.”

“In these videos we could see Turkish soldiers with their cars and tanks standing in very close proximity to Daesh [IS] fighters, but at the same time they are not taking any action against them,” she stressed. “All of these videos were shown by our security services and militias who recorded them at the scene.”

“It was clear from the beginning that Turkey is the main sponsor of Daesh. Now [Turkey] created camps in northern Iraq and invaded our territory under the pretext of fighting against Daesh. But in reality it is training their fighters,” Nima said.

“Turkey is a terrorist state. Turkey de facto is Daesh. Since 2003 according to all data Turkey is exporting Daesh terrorists to us. According to our intelligence services, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are behind all the explosions that happened in Baghdad,” Nima said.

As Shiite paramilitary groups have threatened to use force against Turkey unless it pulls out of Iraq, Nima believes it is time to protect Iraq's sovereignty.

“Today all units of the resistance declared the need to counter Turkey’s actions. But if Turkey does not withdraws its troops and the Security Council, the Arab League and the international community continue to stay idle, we will find a way to protect our legal rights,” the MP said.