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Iraq PM hits back in war of words with Turkey’s president

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. - AFP

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. – AFP

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hit back on Tuesday against dismissive comments by Turkey’s president, mocking his appeal to the nation via video call during a failed coup attempt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Abadi earlier in the day to “know your place,” and said that he is “not on my level” — another escalation in the war of words between the two sides over Ankara’s deployment of troops in Iraq’s north.

“We will liberate our land through the determination of our men and not by video calls,” Abadi’s official Twitter account said.

Erdogan made a desperate appeal via video calling application FaceTime for citizens to resist a July attempt to overthrow the government, rallying resistance that helped to thwart the coup.

Abadi’s spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told AFP that Erdogan, with his latest remarks, was “pouring oil on the fire,” adding that Turkey’s responses had made an issue of law and security into a “problem of a personal nature”.

“It seems that Turkey is not serious about solving the problem with Iraq,” Hadithi said.

Abadi has repeatedly called on Turkey to withdraw troops deployed near the northern city of Mosul, and said that they will not play a role in the operation to retake it from the Islamic State jihadist group.

Turkey has ignored these requests and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last week that the country’s forces would stay “no matter what the Iraqi government in Baghdad says.”

The dispute has now lasted for almost a year, and was reignited by the Turkish parliament’s decision to extend a government mandate, thereby allowing Turkish troops to remain in Iraq.

Turkey has had forces deployed in northern Iraq since the 1990s in areas that are part of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which also currently controls the area near Mosul where the Turkish troops are deployed.

Kurdish security forces are in practice not under Abadi’s command, meaning that appealing for their withdrawal and pushing for allies to help is his main recourse at the moment.

Iraq has called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the dispute, which threatens to complicate plans to recapture Mosul from IS.

Iraqi forces are currently preparing for the operation to seize the city from IS, which overran it and other areas in 2014 but has since lost significant ground in the country.

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