Erdogan to Abadi: ‘Know your place’
ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday snubbed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s criticism of the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq ahead of a planned operation to retake Mosul city, urging him to “know your place”. “He is insulting me personally. You are not my interlocutor, you are not at my level,” Erdogan told a meeting in Istanbul, in comments addressed to Abadi. “It’s not important at all how you shout from Iraq. You should know that we will do what we want to do,” he added. “Who’s that? The Iraqi prime minister. First you know your place!”
Turkey has said its troops would remain in Iraq despite Baghdad’s growing anger ahead of a planned operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group. Ankara maintains an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq - around 500 of them in the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq training local fighters who will join the battle to recapture Mosul, according to Turkish media reports.
The Iraqi premier’s spokesman later yesterday said Erdogan was “pouring oil on the fire” with his remarks and showed Ankara was not serious about resolving the dispute. Turkey’s responses had made an issue of law and security into a “problem of a personal nature”, Saad Al-Hadithi told AFP.
Baghdad has repeatedly called on Ankara to pull out its troops, with Abadi warning the Turkish deployment risked a regional war. The dispute between Ankara and Baghdad flared up after the Turkish parliament extended a government mandate by one year, allowing its troops to remain on both Iraqi and Syrian soil. The Iraqi parliament has labelled the Turkish troops an “occupying force”.
Speaking to Muslim religious leaders from the Balkans and Central Asia, Erdogan said objections from Iraq wouldn’t stop Turkey from participating in any operation to free Mosul and rejected the Iraqi premier’s demand for a withdrawal. “The army of the Turkish republic has not lost its quality to a degree to receive instructions from you,” he said.
The Turkish-Iraqi tensions risk complicating plans for an operation to save Mosul, which was captured by IS jihadists in 2014. The Turkish president has expressed his country’s willingness to join the battle under a similar understanding it had reached for the recapture of Jarabulus in Syria. Turkey’s army has launched an ambitious operation in Syria, backing opposition fighters who recaptured the town of Jarabulus near the Turkish border from IS jihadists in September.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, meanwhile, again warned that any operation to free Mosul shouldn’t lead to any demographic change. Turkish is worried that once Mosul is liberated from IS, Kurds or Shiite groups may take Mosul over and push out Sunni Arabs or ethnic Turkmens. “We have explained to all of our friends that the operation planned for Mosul should be limited to removing Daesh,” Yildirim said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. “If you, after removing Daesh, attempt to change Mosul’s demographic structure, you will light the fire of a very big civil war, of a sectarian war. This is our warning.” —Agencies