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Iraq Appeals To UN To Demand Turkish Troop Withdrawal

  • RFE/RL

Iraq appeared to abandon an effort to negotiate with Turkey over several hundred troops stationed in northern Iraq and revived its demand for an immediate withdrawal in an appeal before the United Nations.

"We call on the [UN] Security Council to demand that Turkey withdraw its forces immediately...and not to violate Iraqi sovereignty again," Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said in a letter late December 11 to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who is president of the Security Council this month.

"This is considered a flagrant violation of the principles of the UN Charter, and a violation of Iraqi territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Iraq," the letter said.

The UN council has no plans to meet on the matter, but Power said the U.S. position is "that any troops deployments in Iraq need to be with the consent of the sovereign Iraqi government."

She "urged that the dialogue continue between the Iraqi and Turkish governments to find an amicable way out of this difficult situation."

The UN petition came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that removing the troops was "out of the question," although he offered on December 11 to "reorganize" the military personnel at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul in northern Iraq.

Turkey insists the troops are there to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces to fight the Islamic State group, which has taken over Mosul and much of northern and western Iraq, and reinforcements were needed recently to protect the troops from IS.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, under growing pressure from Shi'ite clergy and militias which oppose having foreign troops in Iraq, said in a late-night address that he had tried to solve the crisis with "peaceful and diplomatic means," to no avail.

Abadi insisted, as he has before, that Iraq does not need the help of foreign troops to fight IS.

Iraq's latest push against Turkey came after Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, gave a sermon calling for withdrawal of the troops, saying Turkey was only using the fight against terrorism as a "pretext" for intervention.

"Iraq's neighbors and all other countries are required to respect Iraq's sovereignty and refrain from sending troops without permission from the central government," Sistani said, according to his representative Ahmed al-Safi.

Erdogan, for his part, was not convinced, however, saying on December 11 that IS and other terror groups are "running wild" in Iraq and Baghdad has been unable to oust them or protect Turkish soldiers that have been stationed there since 2014.

"Are we to wait for the invitation of the central Iraqi government when there is an attack to our country? We have no such luxury," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president met with the leader of Iraq's Kurdish regional government earlier in the week, with the two leaders emphasizing the need for both nations to cooperate in battling IS.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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