US says Turkey must pull unauthorised forces from Iraq

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The United States (US) ramped up pressure Wednesday on Turkey to pull unauthorised troops from Iraq, aiming to defuse a dispute that has rankled relations between two countries central to the fight against the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

Vice President Joe Biden, in a phone call with Iraq’s leader, lent credence to Iraq’s claim that its neighbour violated its sovereignty by sending reinforcements to a training camp in northern Iraq.

He told Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the deployment “occurred without the prior consent of the Iraqi government,” the White House said.

Iraq’s government has been incensed over Turkey’s move to send reinforcements to the camp in the Bashiqa region, near the IS-held city of Mosul.

Abadi has demanded that Turkish troops immediately withdraw from Iraq’s territory. But Turkey has insisted the added troops were needed to protect its forces from attacks by IS – a concern that gained new relevance Wednesday when IS militants attacked the camp, killing three Iraqi Sunni fighters and wounding several Turkish trainers.

The flare-up between Iraq and Turkey has hardened into an unwelcome distraction for the US which is working to persuade Turkey to step up its fight against IS while escalating its own military efforts against the extremist group.

Biden and other US officials have been working the phones for days, urging both Abadi and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to resolve the dispute.