Turkey says it has currently stopped the deployment of troops to northern Iraq, warning, however, that it will not withdraw those soldiers already stationed in the Arab country.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic announced the development at a press conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Tuesday.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated Ankara’s respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity during a Monday phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, Bilgic stated.
On December 4, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province.
Ankara claimed the deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi forces in the fight against the ISIL terrorist group. Baghdad, however, strongly condemned the deployment of the Turkish battalion on the Iraqi territory, branding the uncoordinated act a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty.
Separately, in a speech to his party in the Turkish parliament, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he was determined to visit Iraq as soon as possible to try to calm the latest Ankara-Baghdad tensions over the troops deployment.
In another development on Tuesday, people staged a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in the Iraqi capital to express their dissatisfaction with the deployment of Turkish forces.