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Iraq to take Turkey to the UN for 'blatant breach of the UN charter'

Erdogan claims Turkish troops have been in Mosul for 18 months at the request of the Iraqi prime minister
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi addresses the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN in New York (AFP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi on Friday urged the UN Security Council to act to ensure that Turkey pull out its troops from northern Iraq.

Abadi said that their presence was a "blatant breach of the UN charter" and had not been authorised by Iraqi authorities, despite earlier claims by Ankara that it was invited in by Baghdad.

"We demand the UN Security Council takes responsibility ... to order Turkey to immediately withdraw its troops," Abadi said in a statement released by his office.

The statement, which added that the foreign ministry has been ordered to make a "formal complaint" over "the Turkish incursion," came shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish troops have been in Mosul for 18 months at the request of the Iraqi prime minister.

Speaking to reporters, Erdogan said: “As you know, there are many steps taken by many countries on Iraq; there are operations carried out. And we do not resemble any of those countries. We are a very different country.

“Because Iraq is a place where terrorist organisations are running wild, especially Daesh ... these terrorist organisations are a threat element for Turkey,” he said using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group.

Turkey maintains that its forces are training both Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdish region as well as Iraqi army troops. There are believed to be between 150 and 300 Turkish soldiers, backed by 20 Turkish tanks, now in Iraq.

While the latest group arrived on 4 December, Turkey maintains this was a simple rotation of its troops.

Earlier this week, the Russians - currently at odds with Turkey over the downing of a Russian military plane - said that they would ask the UN to look into the matter although Iraq at the time remained noncommittal about a formal complaint.

According to a Thursday statement by Abadi’s office, Turkish officials, including its head of intelligence Hakan Fidan, had visited Iraq in hope if deescalating tensions.

"The Turkish delegation was told that the only way to resolve the crisis is the full withdrawal of Turkish troops from Iraqi territory, and this will open the way for positive relation," Thursday's statement said.

Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have both so far rejected calls to pull the troops out.

“At the moment retreating our troops is out of question. [...] [It] is not about keeping combat troops but a backup to protect our officers providing training there,” Erdogan said on Friday. “All the numbers that have been released [regarding Turkish troops] are extreme. These numbers do not have any relation, close or far, with the number of soldiers we deployed.”