After a months-long war of words over a Turkish military presence in Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke on the phone on Friday, agreeing to an end of tensions between the two countries, CNNTürk reported.
According to report, after evaluating bilateral relations and the fight against terrorism, the two leaders underlined the importance of strengthening direct dialogue between Turkey and Iraq. In this context they said Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s visit to Baghdad in January would be an important opportunity to develop the relationship and facilitate an exchange of views.
In October 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 my interlocutor, you are not at my level, your quality is not at my level, know your place. We will go our own way in Mosul,” said Erdoğan.
Ankara and Baghdad have been experiencing tension since September over the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq, a contentious issue for some time, but a parliamentary motion that gave 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.
Prime Minister Yıldırım defied al-Abadi’s remarks about Turkey causing a regional war by maintaining troops in Iraq, saying that Turkish troops would 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 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 hoped 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.