World Bulletin / News Desk
“The main aim of the Bashiqa camp was to remove ISIL from the region,” Fikri Isik told reporters in Kirikkale, a city east of the capital Ankara.
“Then the camp will work to develop all necessary measures to prevent extrem groups, including the PYD/PKK, from being stationed in the area,” he said.
Isik added: “Following the full removal of extrem groups, Ankara and Baghdad will discuss the future of the Bashiqa camp…The matter will be resolved in a friendly manner.”
“A secured Mosul was important for Turkish safety as well as Iraq’s,” he explained.
“The presence of Turkish troops at Gedu military base in Bashiqa near Mosul was no arbitrary matter but an issue of necessity,” he said, adding that Turkey respects Iraq’s territorial integrity and national unity.
“Clearing ISIL from the city of Mosul is as important for Turkey’s safety as Iraq’s,” he said.
His remarks come after Iraq’s Ankara Ambassador Hisham Ali Akbar Ibrahim Al-Alawi Wednesday claimed that Baghdad and Ankara had agreed Turkish troops would leave the base after Mosul’s liberation.
Turkey has a longstanding military training mission at the camp, where Turkish soldiers have trained both Peshmerga fighters and local tribal volunteers in combat techniques.
In recent months, the mission’s presence in Mosul in northern Iraq has led to tension between Baghdad and Ankara amid calls by some Iraqi lawmakers for Turkish troops to withdraw.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirm discussed the issue with his Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad during his official visit last weekend.
He said Turkey and Iraq had entered a new era as the dispute over the camp was solved.
Isik said Turkish troops in Iraq have done their mission successfully and killed more than 700 ISIL extremists to date.
More than 6,000 elements of Al-Hashdi Al-Watani, a Sunni armed group, and other local fighters have been trained in the camp and taken an active role in the Mosul operation, he noted.
Asked about the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters in Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, Isik said nearly 2,000 square kilometer areas have so far been cleared of ISIL.
The operation was launched last August to clear ISIL and other extremist groups from northern Syrian cities close to the Turkish border and provide a safe area for displaced Syrians.
“The operation had three aims; to clear ISIL from the area, to stop the PKK/PYD from merging their cantons, and to secure a safe place for Syrians,” Isik said, adding that most of these aims were fulfilled.