Iraq says 'deal reached' with Turkey over troops withdrawal
A deal has been reached between Baghdad and Ankara over the withdrawal of Turkish troops from a northern Iraqi town near Mosul, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday.
The agreement came after Abadi met with his Turkish counterpart Binyali Yildirim in Baghdad to discuss Turkish troops presence in the town of Bashiqa.
They have been stationed there since before the Mosul offensive began last year, much to the ire of Baghdad and sparking angry protests in the capital.
Iraqi state TV reported that Turkey has pledged to "respect the sovereignty of Iraq", and that both countries agreed not to interfere in each other's domestic matters.
Yildirim arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for a two-day visit in which the premier hoped to patch up fraught relations with Turkey's southern neighbour.
It's the first such visit since the two governments quarrelled over the presence of unauthorised Turkish troops in northern Iraq, straining relations between the two neighbours fighting the Islamic State group.
On his Twitter account, the Turkish Ambassador to Baghdad, Faruk Kaymakci, said that "We hope that his visit will open a new chapter in Turkey-Iraq relations."
The presence of some 500 Turkish troops in the Bashiqa region, north-east of the IS-held city of Mosul, has stirred tension with Baghdad since late last year.
Iraq has demanded their withdrawal, saying they are there without permission and are in "blatant violation" of Iraqi sovereignty.
Turkey says the troops were invited by local Iraqi authorities and has ignored the calls.
The issue grew into a rare and bitter public feud last year between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as Iraqi government troops launched a massive military operation to recapture Mosul on October 17.
Ankara has insisted that its forces should take part in retaking the city, but Baghdad has refused. Erdogan also threatened to deploy troops to Tal Afar - a Turkman town near Mosul - if Iraqi paramilitaries entered.
At one point, Erdogan gave a patronising speech telling Abadi to "know his place".
"You are not at my level, you are not my equivalent, you are not of the same quality as me," he cried.
Abadi responded by mocking Erdogan's use of a video messaging app during Turkey's failed coup last year.
An Iraqi court later issued an arrest warrant against the former governor of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital, Atheel al-Nujaifi, accusing him of facilitating the entry of the Turkish forces.