Baghdad 'reaches deal' on Turkish forces in northern Iraq
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday an agreement had been reached with Turkey over an Iraqi demand that Turkish forces withdraw from a town near Mosul in the north of the country, Iraqi state TV reported.
Abadi met his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim in Baghdad. State television did not provide further details about the agreement over the town of Bashiqa, where Turkish forces have been stationed since before a recent offensive against Islamic State in northern Iraq.
It said Turkey had pledged to "respect the sovereignty of Iraq" and that Baghdad and Ankara agreed not to interfere in each other's domestic affairs.
Iraq and Turkey came to blows in October over the continued presence of Turkish forces in Bashiqa and elsewhere in northern Iraq, with each government summoning the other's ambassador.
Baghdad has accused Turkey of violating its sovereignty but Ankara has insisted rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who are based in northern Iraq should be dealt with.
Abadi later said the issue would be solved soon.
"The prime minister and the delegation accompanying him confirmed that this issue will be solved in a satisfactory manner soon," he said.
Yildirim on Saturday said Abadi had provided assurances about the PKK.
"This is very important for us. We were very pleased with this and it shows in the best way what we can do in the fight against terror," he said.
The PKK, a Turkish organisation, and its local allies control key areas in the Sinjar region, which lies between Mosul and Syria, south of the Turkish border.
Ankara has blamed a number of recent deadly attacks in Turkey on the PKK and has hinted it would not hesitate to cross the border to hunt down the Kurdish separatists.
Abadi said he had a deal with the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region for its forces to establish control over the Sinjar area.
"It should be under the full control of Iraqi forces and any outside forces are not allowed to control this area," Abadi said.
Yildirim said his government was committed to respecting and supporting Iraq's sovereignty.
Ankara has insisted Mosul must keep its Sunni Arab Muslim majority which it had before IS took over the city from woefully unprepared Iraqi troops in 2014.
Yildirim suggested that Turkey would pull its troops out of Bashiqa once the battle for Mosul is over.
While Abadi has said a victory in Mosul could take three more months, many observers argue the timetable is optimistic.
Exactly which Iraqi forces secure the city will also be significant, with Turkey particularly wary of Shia-dominated militias loyal to Tehran attempting to gain a foothold in northern Iraq.