President Recep Tayyip Erdogan : ” #Turkish troops to remain in #Iraq”
Istanbul, Turkey (Xinhua + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated here on Sunday that Turkish troops will remain in Iraq, overturning a foreign ministry pledge to the contrary.
“Turkish troops are in Iraq to provide protection for training troops and will continue to be there,” the president spoke at an event in Istanbul.
He repeated his argument that the soldiers were not deployed as combat troops and Turkey is “determined” to continue its training of Kurdish and Arab forces.
Ankara sent hundreds of troops to the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq earlier this month, saying the forces were part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State (IS).
Baghdad, however, slammed the move and has brought the issue to the UN Security Council in its efforts to push for a complete withdrawal.
After U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Erdogan over the phone, Turkish foreign ministry issued a statement on Dec. 19, announcing that Turkey was going to remove its troops from Bashiqa.
In his speech in Istanbul, Erdogan also accused Iran and Russia of pursuing hidden policies in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
“If Iran had not stood behind al-Assad for sectarian reasons, today maybe we would not be discussing an issue like Syria,” he said.
He blamed Russia for using the civil war in Syria as a means to realize its aim to strengthen its presence in the East Mediterranean region.
Turkish fighters shot down a Russian warplane last month, chilling bilateral ties to a new low.
Turkey is supporting the opposition forces in Syria and insists on al-Assad’s ouster for any political transition in his country.