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Turkish PM to visit Iraq this week to begin 'new era' of relations

Relations between the two countries have been tense in recent months, particularly over the presence of Turkish troops near Mosul
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses the AKP group meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on 29 November, 2016 (AFP)

Turkey's prime minister will visit Iraq this week to discuss the fight against terrorism and the future of Iraq, the government's spokesman said on Monday.

"The prime minister will be travelling to Iraq on Thursday to start a new era with the Iraqi central government," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told a news conference.

"A new peace perspective in Iraq is just around the corner," Kurtulmus added. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's office said in a statement he would be visiting both Baghdad and Erbil.

Relations between largely Sunni Muslim Turkey and the Shia-dominated central government in Iraq have recently been tense, particularly over the presence of Turkish troops at the Bashiqa camp north of Mosul.

The dispute between Ankara and Baghdad flared up after the Turkish parliament extended a mandate allowing its troops to remain on both Iraqi and Syrian soil for one year.

The Iraqi parliament had previously labelled the Turkish troops an "occupying force".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously rejected the Iraqi premier's demand for a withdrawal.

"The army of the Turkish republic has not lost its quality to a degree to receive instructions from you," he said at a meeting in Istanbul in October.

The Turkish-Iraqi tensions risk complicating plans for an operation to save Mosul, which was captured by IS in 2014.

The Turkish president has expressed his country's willingness to join the battle under a similar understanding it had reached for the recapture of Jarabulus in Syria.

Turkey's army has launched an ambitious operation in Syria on 24 August, codenamed Euphates Shield, backing opposition fighters who recaptured swathes of territory from IS near the Turkish border.

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