Sat Dec 19, 2015 1:39AM
In a telephone call on Friday, President Barack Obama (R) "urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq.” (File Photo)
In a telephone call on Friday, President Barack Obama (R) "urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq.” (File Photo)

US President Barack Obama has called on his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to withdraw his country's troops out of Iraq and respect its integrity.

In a telephone call on Friday, Obama "urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces."

He also "reinforced the need for Turkey to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq," the White House said.

A 300-strong contingent of Turkish forces backed by 20 to 25 tanks was stationed on the outskirts of the city of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province, on December 4.

Ankara has described the deployment as a “routine rotation” in a training program for Iraqi forces and to protect Turkish trainers working with anti-Daesh groups, however, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Turkish troops had entered Iraqi territories without the consent of the Iraqi government, calling the move “an incursion.”

On December 4, Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh Province.

Al-Abadi and his senior ministers released a statement, underlining the need for the "complete withdrawal" of Turkish troops from Iraqi soil.  

The cabinet "renewed its firm position on the necessity of a response from neighboring Turkey to the Iraqi demand for a complete withdrawal from Iraqi territory and respect for its national sovereignty," the statement said. 

According to latest media reports, some Turkish troops deployed in northern Iraq are leaving the Bashiqa camp, heading north to a yet unknown destination as part of a “new arrangement.”

Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call with al-Abadi on Wednesday, lent credence to Baghdad’s complaint that the deployment "occurred without the prior consent of the Iraqi government."

Over the past few days, thousands of Iraqi protesters have staged demonstrations across the country to denounce the Turkish deployment of military forces. On December 11, Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also called on the government to show “no tolerance” toward any party that violates the country’s sovereignty.