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Turkey shifts troops out of disputed camp to soothe tension with Iraq

Turkey has shifted some of its troops stationed in a camp near Iraqi city of Mosul to the north close to the Turkish border in order to defuse tensions that flared up recently between Ankara and Baghdad.

The move came on the heels of recent spat between the two neighboring countries over the fresh deployment of Turkish military trainers in Bashiqa camp near Mosul that prompted an outcry from Baghdad that said it was not notified in advance.

Iraq has immediately demanded Turkey to withdraw its troops, threatened Ankara with the escalation of the matter to the UN security Council.

However, Turkey vowed to maintain troops in Iraq as part of training mission for the local forces in their fight with the Islamic State (IS).

On his return from Turkmenistan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Sunday beefing up the camp was necessary to protect Turkish military trainers from raising threat by the IS.

"This threat was not eliminated for us," he noted.

Nevertheless, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday that Turkey has taken steps for a re-arrangement of troops near Mosul without specifying where the troops that departed the camp were heading.

"Our troops will maintain their presence there. There was a shift of troops," he underlined.

The Prime Minister attributed to transfer of some troops out of Bashiqa camp to reassessment of threat without specifying the detail and nature of that threat.

Turkish analysts believe Ankara should have coordinated its troops movement in Iraq with the federal government and leave if necessary and ordered by the legitimate government.

"A partial withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraq was the right step," Faruk Logoglu, former ambassador, said.

He noted that if Iraq wants a complete removal of forces, then Turkey should comply with that request.

However, the former diplomat explained that Turkey has a right under the international law to conduct anti-terror operations in the territory where Iraq forces remain inadequate or ineffective.

Turkey has been engaging short-lived cross-border operations into Iraqi's north where the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) based its headquarters.

The PKK is listed as terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Ankara said the training camp near Mosul was set up a year ago with the consent of Baghdad, Mosul governorate and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). It was offering training to the Kurdish forces, local Sunni and Turkmen fighters against the IS that seized the city a year ago.

The dispute also simmered around the number of fresh troops that were deployed to the camp early in December that allegedly exceeded the number agreed last year with Baghdad.

Amberin Zaman, a journalist writing for a Turkish news portal Diken, said the Turkish government pledged to Washington that it will scale down the number of troops at the camp to pre-deployment level.

Asked about the number of troops deployed in the region, the Turkish prime minister on Monday declined to specify a figure citing safety concerns for the troops.

Ozturk Yilmaz, a former diplomat who served in Mosul before takeover of the city by the IS, also believed Turkey needs to coordinate its actions in Iraq with Baghdad.

"Turkey should carefully calculate its steps while making policies," Yilmaz who is now lawmaker in the Turkish Parliament from the main opposition Republican Peoples' Party (CHP), warned.

Turkish analysts also worry that Ankara's recent actions may have a far reaching consequences.

Lale Kemal, an expert on security matters, said recent events show Turkish policy lacks long-term strategies and the calculation of the pros and cons of the repercussions of its actions.

"By failing to weigh up the pros and cons for either of its recent acts — shooting down the Russian plane and sending additional troops to Iraq — Ankara has also revived old animosities with many countries of the region as well as with Russia," Kemal explained.

[Source: Xinhua, Ankara, 14Dec15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 15Dec15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.