BAGHDAD, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday warned that Turkey’s presence in Iraq could lead to a regional war, after a possible “power vacuum” in the aftermath of the battle for Mosul against the Islamic State.
Abadi called the presence of Turkish troops within Iraq a threat to his country’s sovereignty, adding that the U.S.-led international coalition is “also condemning the presence of those troops.” The prime minister said the Turkish presence is not justified because the Islamic State is closer to the Turkish border from Syria than from Mosul.
The Turkish military is in the town of Bashiqa — near Mosul — in Iraq’s northern Ninawa governorate providing training for Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Sunni militant forces.
The Turkish and Iraqi government have been at odds since December over Turkey’s deployment of troops to Iraq, which Turkey said is necessary to create a 3,000-square-mile safe zone along its borders but Iraq said is a violation because it was done without Baghdad’s permission or knowledge.
“The presence of foreign troops in Iraq to control the situation is not permitted and unacceptable … We asked the Turkish side, more than once, not to interfere in the Iraqi affairs,” Abadi said Tuesday. “We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey.”
Abadi said Iraqi security forces have put plans in place ahead of Iraqi security forces’Mosul ground offensive that will “ensure Turkish troops do not exploit the power vacuum after achieving victory against the Islamic State in Mosul.”