[VIDEO] Bashiqa crisis cools down as Turkey promises to withdraw

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım (L) and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (R) hold a joint press conference after the Turkey-Iraq High Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting at the governmental palace in Baghdad on January 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO /

After a months-long war of words over the Turkish military presence in Bashiqa near Mosul, Baghdad and Ankara have agreed to resolve the issue amicably.

Following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Saturday in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Iraqi state television that Turkey has agreed to withdraw its troops from the town of Bashiqa near Mosul.

During a joint press conference with al-Abadi after the meeting, Yıldırım said Ankara would neither be part of nor approve any act that would endanger Iraq’s sovereignty. Yıldırım added that the Bashiqa camp row would be resolved amicably, along with with clearing out the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Underlining respect for both territorial integrity and sovereignty, the sides agreed to fight against terrorism together, said a statement released after a meeting of the two delegations.

Emphasizing that Bashiqa was an Iraqi camp, Baghdad asked Ankara to start the process of withdrawing its troops and put an end to the issue. In return, Turkey reiterated respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Iraq and Turkey agreed not to harbor any terrorist organizations and not to allow any activities that threaten the national security of either side. The two countries also agreed to cooperate in fighting against ISIL.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and al-Abadi had spoken on the phone in late December, agreeing to an end of tensions between the two countries.

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 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.

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