No Better Bilateral Ties until Turkish Forces’ Withdrawal: Iraq

The Iraqi prime minister says there could be no improvement in Baghdad-Ankara relations as long as Turkish military forces are present in the Arab country.

Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that the ties with Turkey could "not move forward one step" until the withdrawal of Turkish troops, state television reported.

The presence of some 500 Turkish troops in the Bashiqa military camp on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Mosul has been a source of tension between the two neighboring countries.

 Ankara claimed that the December 2015 deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi Kurdish forces in the fight against Daesh terrorists. However, Baghdad denounced the move as a violation of its sovereignty.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Abadi noted that he had reminded the visiting Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of the withdrawal during a recent meeting.

Daesh and organized crimes threaten the Iraqi society, he warned, urging the Iraqis to cooperate with security forces on restoring security.

Daesh has suffered major blows in the battlefield in Mosul and resorted to destroying bridges, but such moves will not prevent the city’s liberation, the Iraqi premier added.

Iraqi forces make more gains

In another development on Tuesday, the Nineveh Operations Command announced the recapture of Mosul’s al-Zabat district.

Iraqi forces also managed to enter the Palestine neighborhood in southeastern Mosul, with the rapid response units saying they were able to push Daesh elements completely out of the area.

"We have now recaptured the entire area. We are at the banks of the Tigris River. Daesh militants have all fled, not a single one of them remains, most fled to the western side of (Mosul)," said Iraqi Sergeant Alaa Qasem.

Moreover, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, a spokesman for the rapid response units, said the advances have slowed down as terrorists are hiding among civilians.

Police and army units had fought their way into the districts of Palestine and Sumer, but militants were firing at civilians who were trying to flee, Mohammedawi noted.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said they had taken full control of Baladiyat district and were poised to advance on two nearby areas.

"We are standing at the edge of the Baladiyat district. The area has been cleared completely, and we are about to advance towards the Sideeq and Sukkar districts. We are at the precipice of the (Mosul) University," said Lieutenant General AbdelWahad al-Saadi, a CTS commander.

Iraqi army troops and allied fighters have been conducting a major offensive since last October to liberate Mosul, which fell to Daesh in 2014.

Baghdad sit-in turns violent

Separately, police forces clashed with some protesters in the second day of a sit-in at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad. The demonstrators were protesting against the security condition in Baghdad.

Policemen used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, injuring some of them.

The scuffles erupted after security forces called for an end to the sit-in.