Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday that the presence of the Turkish troops near the Iraqi northern city of Mosul is hampering the efforts to free the major stronghold of the Islamic State militants in the city.
“What I want to confirm is that the presence of the Turkish forces on the Iraqi territories is hampering our efforts to eliminate IS group),” Abadi told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.
“If Turkey is serious in fighting IS, then they have to withdraw its forces from Iraq,” Abadi said, adding “but Turkey is not willing to end its military presence, and is ignoring the principle of violating the sovereignty of Iraq as an independent country.”
Earlier, Iraq said Turkish forces had entered Iraqi territory without the knowledge of Baghdad, which viewed their presence as a “hostile act”.
However, the Turkish government said that withdrawing Turkish troops from Iraq is out of the question and the Turkish soldiers are in Iraq as part of a training mission.
The deployment of the Turkish troops in Iraq, however, has caused a row between Turkey and Iraq as the latter claimed the presence of Turkish troops to the camp was violation of the country’s sovereignty.
However, Abadi said Iraq has no problem with the people and the government of Turkey, “but we have problem with the (Turkish) mentality that deals with the relations between the two countries”.
“Turkey has to know that Iraq, as neighbouring country, wants to hold ties built on common interests, but sending those troops (in northern Iraq) is poisoning the relations between the two countries,” Abadi said.
As for the long-awaited battle to free Mosul from IS extremist militants, Abadi said, the Iraqi government is committed to the timetable of plans that aimed at liberating Mosul.
Abadi did not say whether the predominantly Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units would participate in the battle of the Sunni city of Mosul.
“The national interest of Iraq and the nature of the battle will determine which forces would involve in the battle of Mosul, whether it will be Hashd Shaabi units, army, anti-terrorism, or federal police,” Abadi said.
He said there are some priorities in the battle to liberate Mosul, including implementing well-prepared plans in order to reduce the casualties among the troops as well as the civilians and their property.
Iraqi security forces have been fighting IS militants around Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, as part of a major offensive targeting liberating the IS stronghold in Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh.
Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, has been under the IS control for more than two years, when the extremist group took control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions in June 2014.