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Arab League censures Turkey for military build-up in Iraq

THE LEVANT NEWS — The Arab League has denounced the recent deployment of Turkish troops to northern Iraq as a violation of international law as tensions escalate between Baghdad and Ankara.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby made the remarks at the start of an emergency meeting of the 22-nation bloc’s foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo on Thursday.

“The Turkish military incursion into Iraq is a clear violation of international law and Iraqi sovereignty,” Elaraby said.

On December 4, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province. Ankara claimed the deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Peshmerga forces in the fight against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Baghdad, however, strongly condemned the presence of the Turkish battalion on the Iraqi territory, branding the uncoordinated act as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty.

Iraq officially filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council, calling on the international body to ensure an immediate pullout of the Turkish forces from the Arab state.

On December 19, Turkey announced that it had begun withdrawing troops following an appeal by US President Barack Obama.

In a phone conversation the day earlier, Obama urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull out troops in a bid to de-escalate tensions and respect Iraq’s integrity as a sovereign nation.

However, reports emerged saying that Turkey was moving its troops to another base inside Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

At Thursday’s Arab League meeting, which was called by Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Turkey has insisted on “using the term ‘redeployment’.”

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (L) attends an emergency meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt, December 24, 2015. ©AFP
“They (the troops) would be relocated from one Iraqi area to another Iraqi area. Sovereignty is sovereignty, and the territories are one,” he added.

Baghdad tried to preserve its diplomatic ties with Ankara, but the Turkish government has not fulfilled its pledges concerning the pullout of its soldiers from the Iraqi soil, the top Iraqi diplomat said.

The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by violence ever since Daesh began its march through the territory in June 2014.

Iraqi army soldiers and Popular Mobilization Units have been engaged in joint operations to take back the militant-held regions.

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