Thousands of Iraqi protesters have staged demonstrations across the country to denounce Turkey’s deployment of military forces near the embattled northern city of Mosul.
On Friday evening, people converged on Tahrir (Liberation) Square in central Baghdad to condemn in the strongest terms the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq, calling Ankara’s move “a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”
The demonstrators also called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Iraqi soil, Arabic-language al-Sumaria satellite television network reported.
Elsewhere in the city of Nasiriyah, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad, demonstrators gathered near Habboubi Square, calling on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi to take “a firm stance” against Turkey’s act of “aggression.”
A similar demonstration was held in the city of al-Diwaniyah, where hundreds of people censured Turkey’s military intervention in Iraq, urging the Iraqi government to expel the Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad Faruk Kaymakci and sever all ties with Ankara.
Additionally, protesters burnt the Turkish flag in Iraq’s southern oil-rich city of Basra in protest against Turkey’s military incursion into Iraqi soil.
Earlier in the day, Abadi strongly condemned Turkey’s deployment of troops to northern Iraq, saying Baghdad does not consider it as an anti-terror move but as a flagrant violation of the Arab country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Iraqi premier stated that the Turkish troops had entered Iraqi territories without the consent of the Iraqi government, adding that his country has never requested ground troops from any foreign country since it has enough soldiers and police forces to maintain its security and fight against terrorists.
He also ordered the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations Security Council against Turkey’s military presence in Iraq “to order Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately.”
On the same day, Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also called on the government to show “no tolerance” towards any side that violates the country’s sovereignty.
No country should “send its soldiers to the territory of another state under the pretext of supporting it in fighting terrorism without the conclusion of an agreement… between the governments of the two countries,” said the statement, read by the hugely influential cleric’s spokesman Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala’i.
Tensions have been running high between Baghdad and Ankara since December 4, when Turkey deployed some 150 soldiers, equipped with heavy weapons and backed by 20 to 25 tanks, to the outskirts of Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s Nineveh province.
Ankara claims that its troops have been deployed in northern Iraq to train Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, and that the move was in line with previous agreements with the Baghdad government. Iraq, however, denies any such deal.
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