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Turkey halts troop deployment to Iraq but will not withdraw: foreign ministry

ANKARA Turkey has halted a deployment of troops to northern Iraq but will not obey Iraq’s request to withdraw those already there, the Foreign Ministry stated on Tuesday, insisting they had been sent with Iraq’s knowledge to support fight Islamic State.

The arrival of a heavily armed Turkish contingent at a camp close to the frontline close to the city of Mosul has added but one more controversial deployment to a war against Islamic State that has drawn in most of the world’s key powers.

Russia, currently furious after Turkey shot down one of its jets flying a sortie more than Syria last month, said it regarded the presence of the Turkish forces in Iraq illegal.

Ankara says its troops are in Iraq to train Iraqi forces. “Training at this camp began with the understanding of the Iraqi Defence Ministry and police,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a meeting of deputies from his ruling AK Celebration.

In the last few days, Baghdad has denied that it knew about the mission and mentioned it would go to the United Nations Safety Council if the troops were not pulled out by Tuesday.

In a phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart late on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu emphasized Ankara’s respect for Iraq’s territorial integrity, spokesman Tanju Bilgic told reporters.

“He (Cavusoglu) mentioned that our activities aimed to contribute to the struggle against Daesh (Islamic State) in Iraq and reiterated that the deployment had stopped,” Bilgic mentioned. “There is no withdrawal at the moment, but the deployment has stopped.”

Davutoglu stated he wanted to go to Baghdad as soon as achievable to calm the row, saying the troops have been intended to shield the coaching mission against attack by Islamic State.

“These who make diverse interpretations of the Turkish military presence in Mosul are involved in deliberate provocation,” he told the deputies.

RUSSIA, SYRIA, IRAN

While consideration was focused on the dispute with Baghdad, Davutoglu made clear that the sharp deterioration in ties with Russia remained higher on the agenda, with Turkey’s cabinet discussing attainable measures against Moscow on Monday.

“We are prepared for talks and every single sort of exchange of suggestions with Russia but will never let anything to be dictated to us,” he mentioned. “In the face of Russia’s sanctions, we will implement our personal sanctions if we regard it needed.”

Russia has imposed a raft of financial sanctions on Turkey since its fighter jet was shot down close to the Syrian-Turkish border final month in disputed situations. Davutoglu stated actions were being to support Turkey’s exporters and tourism sector.

Russia’s rising involvement in the Syrian conflict has place it at odds with Turkey, which has strongly supported rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

President Tayyip Erdogan stated on Tuesday that this assistance would continue, reiterating a demand for the creation of “safe zones” in northern Syria to safeguard displaced civilians and quit the flow of refugees.

“We are insisting on the creation of safe zones free of charge of terror and the speedy implementation of our train-and-equip proposal for moderate rebels,” he stated in a speech.

Davutoglu for his portion criticized “insults and attacks” directed at Turkey from within Iran, which, like Russia, is providing Assad wide-ranging military help.

He did not specify which comments he meant, but mentioned: If these attitudes continue, the conventional Turkey-Iran friendship will suffer wonderful harm … I know the Russian and Iranian men and women do not share this hostile stance of their leaders towards Turkey.”

(Extra reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, Isabel Coles in Erbil Writing by Daren Butler Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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