DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has appealed to Turkey to pull its troops out of Iraqi territory and instead provide training and equipment to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one day after he held a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“I appeal to the Turkish government to help us and withdraw their forces,” said al-Abadi on Jan. 22, adding that Ankara had not responded to his government’s question about why Turkish troops were in Iraq. “We have to have an answer.”
“We in Iraq want very good neighborly relations with Turkey, we hope Turkey will help us to fight Daesh [ISIL],” al-Abadi said. “Daesh is killing our own citizens, occupying our own cities. We have 4 million internal refugees because of that, and Turkey should help us with that,” he said.
Turkey deployed around 150 troops to the Bashiqa area in early December 2015 with the stated aim of training an Iraqi militia to fight ISIL.
The Turkish soldiers’ presence in Iraq recently turned into a row between the two neighboring countries when an additional deployment of Turkish troops to the camp kicked off an angry exchange between Ankara and Baghdad.
Turkey said on Dec. 14, 2015, that some of its troops had begun leaving as part of reorganization, but al-Abadi’s spokesperson said more soldiers would have to be removed before Iraq was satisfied.
One day before al-Abadi’s appeal, Biden met with the Iraqi prime minister and urged continued dialogue between Iraq and Turkey to resolve concerns over Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa.
“The vice president [Biden] encouraged continued dialogue between Iraq and Turkey to resolve concerns about Turkish troop deployments in northern Iraq and reiterated U.S. respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement about the meeting between the leaders in Davos.
Al-Abadi said they did not know what Turkey’s real aim was in deploying its troops in Bashiqa.
“I don’t know what their aim is. Is it an expansionist plot to control part of Ninevah?” Abadi asked, referring to the Mosul region. “I hope not… If they truly want to fight against Daesh, well, they can train our forces. We have asked them to do that. They can supply us with equipment and weapons. We have asked for that. They didn’t send it.”