Iraq has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the presence of Turkish troops on its territory after warning Ankara of a new war if the soldiers are not pulled out.
Baghdad has asked the council to convene to discuss “Turkish violations on the Iraqi soil and the interference in its internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal said on Thursday.
Ankara sent troops northeast of Mosul last year in a move which Iraq considers a “blatant violation” of its sovereignty.
Jamal said Baghdad wants Turkey to withdraw its troops ahead of a major Iraqi military operation to take back Mosul from Daesh terrorists.
Iraqi officials are upset by Turkish parliament’s decision last week to extend the presence of the troops by another year.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad to protest the extension, drawing a tit-for-tat response from Ankara.
Iraq’s parliament, meanwhile, adopted a resolution denouncing the extension and asked the government to consider Turkish troops as “occupation forces.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned that Ankara’s insistence on maintaining troops in Iraq could lead to “regional warfare.”
Turkey, however, remained defiant, with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pledging on Thursday to maintain Turkish troop presence “no matter what Baghdad says.”
Yildirim said Turkish troops would stay in northern Iraq to prevent alleged “efforts to forcibly change the demographic structure in the region,” in an apparent reference to the imminent offensive to take back Mosul.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Abadi said Baghdad has drawn up plans to “ensure Turkish troops will not exploit the power vacuum after victory over Daesh in Mosul.”
Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city and the last remaining urban stronghold for Daesh in norther Iraq. The government is now gearing up for an offensive and has pledged to recapture the city from Daesh this year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted earlier this week at Ankara’s intention to intervene in the Mosul operation.
The announcement drew Abadi’s rebuke, saying “the behavior of the Turkish leadership is not acceptable by any standard.”
“We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey,” he said, adding “the international coalition supports Iraq to reject the presence of Turkish troops on its soil.”
The operation for Mosul, which slipped into Daesh hands in 2014, is highly significant. The Takfiri group has reportedly between 4,000 and 5,000 terrorists in the city, the recapture of which is about to deal a serious blow to the terrorists.