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Iraq's PM Abadi orders Air Force on alert as deadline to Turkey looms

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (AFP photo)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has issued an order for Air Force to be on alert as a deadline to Turkey to pull out its troops from the Arab country approaches.

Sources in Abadi’s office said on Monday that the Iraqi premier has demanded that members of the Iraqi Air Force be ready to defend the country’s “territorial integrity and sovereignty,” according to the Sumeriyah news channel.

The order came amid rising tensions between Baghdad and Ankara over the latter’s move on Friday to start the deployment of a battalion in areas close to the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 

Iraq has strongly condemned the deployment of the Turkish battalion on its territory, branding the uncoordinated move, which began on Friday, a violation of its national sovereignty. Iraq on Sunday gave Ankara 48 hours to withdraw its forces or face “all available options,” including recourse to the UN Security Council. Turkey says the troops were there as part of a so-called training program for local militia battling terrorist groups.

'Bulk of troops pulled out'

Sources in Ankara said Monday that Turkey has begun pulling out bulk of its troops from northern Iraq after Baghdad threatened to pursue the case in full capacity.

A report on the website of the Turkish daily Hurriyet cited sources as saying that a total number of 600 troops Turkey had stationed in a camp around the Iraqi city of Mosul some 350 have been withdrawn.

The sources said the troops that have been withdrawn are waiting on the Turkish-Iraqi border and will be sent back to Iraq if officials in the two countries reach an agreement on the issue.

File photo shows Turkish soldiers in southern areas close to the Iraqi border. (AFP photo)

However, other sources denied that any troops had been pulled out, saying such reduction in the size of soldiers may come after ongoing discussions between Ankara and Iraq's Defense Ministry.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari again warned on Monday that Iraq would raise the matter of the illegal deployment before the United Nations Security Council if Ankara fails to pull out the troops and their heavy weaponry.

The top Iraqi diplomat, who was speaking to journalists during a press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Baghdad, said that Iraq has done its utmost over the past years to preserve “robust relations” with its northern neighbor, but he called the presence of Turkish troops as a direct interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

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