Iran has warned Turkey against violating Iraqi sovereignty to participate in the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, entering into the dispute over Turkish troops’ presence in northern Iraq.
“It is not acceptable at all if a country, under the pretext of combating terrorism or any other crimes, tries to violate the sovereignty” of another country, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told journalists at his weekly press conference on Monday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also criticized Ankara’s military incursion into Iraq on Monday, saying on state TV that Tehran “considers intervention of foreign countries (in Iraq and Syria) under the pretext of fighting terrorism and without coordination with the host country very dangerous, whether it is armored forces, air forces or ground forces.”
Iraq has objected to the presence of some 500 Turkish troops stationed at a base near Mosul who are training Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish forces that are taking part in the offensive, which began a week ago.
Baghdad’s Shiite-led government says the Turkish forces are there without permission and has repeatedly requested their withdrawal. Turkey has refused, insisting its troops entered Iraq last year with an invitation to train anti-IS forces, and that it wants a bigger role in the Mosul operation to prevent sectarian clashes in the Sunni-majority city and protect itself against terrorism.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey is involved in the Mosul operation “in a multi-faceted way,” including the participation of four Turkish F-16 fighter jets in the US-led coalition.
The minister said Turkish troops in the contentious Bashiqa camp were contributing to the campaign by training Sunni Arab and Kurdish forces as well as firing artillery against IS forces. Seventeen IS fighters have been killed by Turkish troops since the beginning of the Mosul offensive, according to Cavusoglu.
Cavusoglu was echoing the remarks of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who told journalists Sunday that Kurdish peshmerga requested Turkish troops’ support in Bashiqa and “we are supporting them with artillery, tanks and howitzers.”
However, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has denied Turkey’s claim that its troops were taking part in the operation as “baseless and untrue” and reiterated his opposition to the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa.
“We reject any interference in Iraqi internal affairs and violating its sovereignty,” al-Abadi said at a Baghdad press conference Monday. “We hope that neighboring Turkey…will not threaten Iraq amid these dangerous and sensitive stages as we are looking for good relations with Turkey and all neighboring countries,” he added.