‘Iraq belongs to Iraqis’, says Turkey’s deputy PM

– Remarks come after Turkey and Iraq summon envoys following Iraqi parliament’s criticism of Turkish troops in Bashiqa town

– Turkey is ready to cooperate with the central Iraqi government in every way to wipe out terrorist organizations from Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Wednesday, according to Anadolu Agency.

Speaking to reporters at an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Kurtulmus said Turkey always said it was against Daesh and other terrorist organizations’ threat to Mosul in Iraq.

“Iraq belongs to Iraqis, Syria belongs to Syrians,” he said.

Kurtulmus said it was impossible for Turkey to allow any terrorist group to change the ethnicity and demographic structure in the region. He added that Iraq and other countries too should not allow such moves.

“About the Bashiqa issue, it is obvious that the regional administration in northern Iraq and the Barzani administration had asked for [Turkey’s] support and [sought] help from Turkish troops, especially for training their local forces to rescue Mosul.

“This is not a disputable issue. Turkey will not let the Bashiqa issue to become a matter of debate,” he said.

He added that Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa, a town to the northeast of Iraq’s Mosul or Syrian territories, as part of the Operation Euphrates Shield, was “not occupation”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iraq’s ambassador to Ankara was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry after the Iraqi parliament characterized the presence of Turkish troops in Bashiqa as “occupiers”.  Later, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry also summoned the Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad.

On Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also condemned the Iraqi parliament’s “mischaracterization” of Turkish troops in Bashiqa. “We strongly condemn the Iraqi parliament’s unacceptable decision, including dirty accusations against Turkish President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan],” the ministry had said in a statement.

A 2007 mandate that allows military action against terrorist organizations in neighboring Syria and Iraq was extended by Turkey’s parliament after the emergence of Daesh, according to the statement. Iraqi parliament Tuesday rejected Turkish lawmakers’ decision to extend the mandate.