Baghdad’s envoy demands Turkish troops out as Iraqi forces vow to free Fallujah ‘in a week’
Baghdad has sent an envoy to Ankara to discuss withdrawing Turkish troops from Iraq, the country’s ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, told Sputnik. It coincides with report that Iraqi troops are planning to free Fallujah from Islamic State “within a week.”
“We have recently had our ambassador, new ambassador, sent to Ankara about last week, so we have given another sign to Turkey that we are serious about discussions and dialogue,” Ambassador Faily said.
The move comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the Turkish troops’ presence in Iraq as unacceptable.
“We demand that Turkey withdraw its troops from Iraqi territory, where they are deployed, as former Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu put it, to ‘strengthen’ Iraq’s sovereignty. This position is absolutely unacceptable,” Lavrov told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily on Tuesday.
In December, Turkey deployed around 150 troops and 25 tanks to a base in Iraq’s Nineveh province, without Baghdad’s permission 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.
In response, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that the Turkish troops were acting in violation of the country’s sovereignty and demanded the forces withdraw immediately.
A week later, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraq is out of question. “Our servicemen went to Iraq as instructors, their mission is limited to training,” Erdogan said back in December. “It is out of the question, at present, that Turkey will pull out its military from Iraq.”
Fallujah to be free of ISIS ‘in a week’
Meanwhile, Iraqi government liaison for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Bassam Al Hussaini also claimed that the country’s troops would free Islamic State-held city of Fallujah within one week. He added that the success would mean that IS will soon kicked out of Iraq.
“The only reason that we slowed down a little bit is just because we were getting a lot of reports saying there were still civilians [in Fallujah] that Daesh [Islamic State] was using as human shields,” he said. “We are hoping three, four days from now, at the most a week, that Fallujah will be free, 100 percent.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Wednesday that the Fallujah offensive has been temporary halted, as 50,000 people, including 20,000 children, are feared to be trapped inside the city.
Iraq’s ambassador to the US, Faily, added that Baghdad will continue to look to Russia for support when buying the arms it needs to battle against Islamic State.
“We have sought support from others, including Russia, and mainly in the provisions and purchase of arms and we’ll continue doing that as well,” Faily added.
Fallujah witnessed some of the heaviest fighting during the US-led military intervention of 2003-2011, and in January of 2014, it became first city in Iraq to fall to Islamic State fighters. The extremists declared a caliphate in territories they had seized in Iraq and Syria in late June 2014.