The Iraqi ambassador to Moscow Haydar Hadi has described the presence of Turkish forces on Iraqi soil as an “invasion”, the Russian news site Sputnik Türkiye reported on Tuesday.
“We see the Turkish soldiers’ presence in Iraq as an invasion, and have sent a message of protest on the topic,” said Hadi at a press conference in Moscow, adding that countries from the Arab League had supported Iraq’s stance.
Turkish forces entered Iraq in 2015 to help the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), the extremist jihadist organisation that declared itself a caliphate in 2014 after seizing the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The Turkish parliament voted to extend the deployment of troops at a military base in the town of Bashiqa for another year in September 2017, even though its stated objective of forcing ISIS out of Mosul had been achieved.
The vote coincided with a crisis caused resurgence of Kurdish dreams of an independent state in northern Iraq, triggered by the independence referendum called by former Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani.
The referendum was considered illegitimate by Baghdad, and the drive for independence was quickly rebuffed by the Iraqi central government, working in conjunction with Turkey and Iran.
The Iraqi ambassador to Ankara spoke about the Turkish military presence in Iraq shortly after the crisis, saying that further cooperation between the two countries depended on Turkey’s withdrawal from the Bashiqa base.