İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said Turkey does not have a hidden agenda in Iraq as tension between Baghdad and Ankara is continuing over a Turkish military presence at the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq.
“Turkey does not have its eye on Iraqi land. Turkey does not have any hidden agenda in Iraq,” Kalın said during a press conference on Thursday.
The president’s spokesperson also warned the Iraqi government not to target President Erdoğan in their statements.
“We cannot accept groundless claims; in particular statements targeting the president [Erdoğan] cannot contribute to the process,” Kalın said .
Turkish troops in Iraq have been a contentious issue for some time, but a recent parliamentary motion that gives the Turkish government a mandate for cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq for another year sparked a backlash from Baghdad.
Speaking at the ninth meeting of the Eurasia Islam Council held in İstanbul on Tuesday, Erdoğan strongly criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who warned Turkey that it could cause a regional war by maintaining a military presence in Iraq and called for an immediate withdrawal.
“You are not of my quality or at my level; know your place. We will go our own way in Mosul,” said Erdoğan.
Following the reprimand by Erdoğan of Al-Abadi, the latter responded on Twitter, saying Iraq is not Turkey’s enemy and that Iraqis will determinedly liberate their lands.
“We are not your enemy, and we will liberate our lands through the determination of our men and not by video calls,” said the Iraqi prime minister in a veiled reference to Erdoğan’s video TV connection to people during a July 15 military coup attempt in Turkey.
Before al-Abadi responded directly to Erdoğan on Twitter, his spokesperson, Saad al-Hadithi, told AFP that Erdoğan has been pouring oil on the fire, arguing that Turkey is not serious about finding a solution to the dispute over the deployment of Turkish soldiers in Iraq.
The Iraqi parliament decided on Oct. 4 to remove the Turkish troops, by force if needed, and described the Turkish units as an “invading force.” The decision then prompted mutual recriminations between the two countries and the summoning of ambassadors.
Turkey has an estimated 2,000 troops in Iraq, around 500 of them at the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq training Iraqi fighters who hope to participate in the battle to recapture Mosul, according to the Turkish media.
US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner on Oct. 5 urged Turkey to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity soon after the Iraqi prime minister warned Turkey not to trigger a regional war by maintaining a military presence in Iraq.