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Arab League denounces Turkish troop deployment in Iraq

Iraqi Shiite militia fighters fire their weapons as they celebra

Cairo: Arab foreign ministers today condemned a Turkish military deployment in Iraq as an “assault” on the country’s sovereignty, demanding Ankara withdraw the forces.

The Turkish deployment “is an assault on Iraqi sovereignty and a threat to Arab national security,” they said in an Arab League statement after meeting at the pan-Arab bloc’s Cairo headquarters.

Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Heli read out the statement at a press conference, in which he added that the Turkish troops “increased tumult in the region.”

Turkey announced on Saturday that it had begun withdrawing troops in a bid to de-escalate a bitter row with Baghdad and following a call from US President Barack Obama.

Earlier this month, Turkey deployed troops to a base in Nineveh province where it has a long-running training programme for forces battling the Islamic State jihadist group.

But at the Cairo meeting, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Turkey has insisted on “using the term ‘redeployment'”.

“They (the troops) would be relocated from one Iraqi area to another Iraqi area. Sovereignty is sovereignty, and the territories are one,” he said.

Later at a news conference, the diplomat said Turkey must withdraw its troops as soon as possible, but said he understood it could take them “several days” to do so.

Ankara had said the deployment was routine and necessary to protect the trainers, while Baghdad said it was unauthorised and protested to the United Nations Security Council.