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Improved Relations With Turkey Depend on Withdrawal From Bashiqa: Iraqi PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressed on Tuesday that neighboring Turkey should pull its forces out of Iraq, otherwise Ankara-Baghdad relations will not see an improvement.

Abadi said in his weekly remarks to reporters in Baghdad: "I told the prime minister of Turkey that our relations will not be patched up if you do not withdraw your forces from Iraq."

Turkish Premier Binali Yildirim visited Baghdad earlier this week in what was seen as a rapprochement of relations between both countries. The two leaders discussed Turkish troops based in Bashiqa, northern Iraq.

They issued a joint statement highlighting points that had been agreed upon in their discussions. In their agreement, Iraq stressed the importance of Turkey's withdrawal of its troops from Bashiqa and Turkey confirmed it respects Iraq's sovereignty, though no details regarding a possible withdrawal were released.

"The Iraqi side emphasized its firm position with regard to Bashiqa camp and the necessity for Turkey to begin to withdraw its forces in phases and to close that issue. The Turkish side confirmed its commitment to Iraq's integrity and respect for its sovereignty," reads the third point of the Baghdad-Ankara agreement concerning Bashiqa camp.

"Iraq's sovereignty is very important to us," Yildirim said in a joint press conference with Abadi. . He described Turkey's military presence in northern Iraq as "not arbitrary, but a necessity."

The issue of Bashiqa has been discussed previously between the two prime ministers. In mid-December, Abadi's office released a statement following a phone call between the two stating that Yildirim pledged to withdraw its forces once ISIS was defeated in Mosul.

The deployment of Turkish troops and heavy weapons to Bashiqa in December 2015 sparked a diplomatic crisis between Baghdad and Ankara that was reignited last October after Iraqi parliamentarians urged the Iraqi government to brand the Turkish presence as an occupation.

The two leaders also discussed the fight against ISIS which is recently ongoing in the country's second largest city of Mosul.

In Tuesday's press conference, Abadi said that "ISIS militants are facing giant defeats in Mosul. Destroying Mosul bridges by ISIS cannot impede our forces from advancing."

The US-led global coalition had carried out airstrikes on all five bridges, disabling them while not destroying them completely. ISIS has, however, recently heavily damaged at least two of the bridges according to reports.

Concerning Iraqi forces wounded in the war, Abadi pledged "to take care of treating the ISIS fight wounds."


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