Erdoğan to al-Abadi: Know your place, Turkey will go its own way in Mosul

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the 23rd World Energy Congress on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday, saying Turkey will do whatever it wants in Mosul, the t24 news website reported.

Speaking at the ninth meeting of the Eurasia Islam Council held in İstanbul on Tuesday, Erdoğan strongly criticized al-Abadi, who warned Turkey that it could cause a regional war by maintaining a military presence in Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal.

“You are not of my quality or at my level; know your place. We will go our own way in Mosul,” said Erdoğan.

“As we participated in Jarabulus and al-Rai [in Syria], we will participate in the operations in Mosul,” added the president.

Erdoğan’s statement came a day after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım strongly reacted to ongoing criticism from Baghdad about a Turkish military presence at the Bashiqa base in northern Iraq, saying Iraq should act like a state first before criticizing Turkey.

“The [Iraqi] government has been silent while many countries that have no physical or spiritual ties to the region have been active there. But we see they [the Iraqi government] become agitated when Turkey takes an interest. The person who talks about this must first protect his country. You should know what it means to be a state, then criticize Turkey. If you do not do this, what you say will be a bit humorous,” said Yıldırım during a speech at İstanbul Technical University on Monday.

“If you continue harboring terrorist organizations and elements that do not contribute to the solution of any problems in your country, of course Turkey will take all measures to protect its borders and the lives and assets of its citizens. It has the right to do that,” added Yıldırım.

Turkish troops in Iraq have been a contentious issue for some time, but a recent parliamentary motion that gives the Turkish government a mandate for cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq for another year sparked a backlash from Baghdad.

The Iraqi parliament decided on Oct. 4 to remove the Turkish troops, by force if needed, and described the Turkish units as an “invading force.” The decision then prompted mutual recriminations between the two countries and the summoning of ambassadors.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi warned Turkey that it may cause a regional war by maintaining a military presence in Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal.

Yıldırım defied al-Abadi’s remarks, saying that Turkish troops will remain in Iraq to continue the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“Whatever the Iraqi government in Baghdad says, the Turkish presence there [in the Bashiqa region] will remain for the fight against ISIL and to make sure that the demographic structure of the region is not being changed by force,” said Yıldırım.

Iraq has requested an emergency UN Security Council session over the presence of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa army base north of Mosul, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Oct. 6.

Turkey has an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq, around 500 of them at the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq training Iraqi fighters who hope to participate in the battle to recapture Mosul, according to the Turkish media.

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner on Oct. 5 urged Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity soon after the Iraqi prime minister warned Turkey not to trigger a regional war by maintaining a military presence in Iraq.

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