PM: Turkey has done all it had to do in Afghanistan
ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 12/6/2009 12:00:00 AM |
Departing Turkey to travel to Washington, D.C., Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rules out sending additional troops to Afghanistan but says Turkey is willing to train the Afghan army and police. He says Turkey has already contributed the 'necessary number' of troops
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ruled out sending additional troops to Afghanistan, but says Turkey is willing to train the Afghan army and police.
Departing Turkey on Sunday to travel to Washington, D.C., the prime minister said his country has already contributed the “necessary number” of troops.
The United States has appealed to its allies for reinforcements in the conflict in Afghanistan.
“For the moment, we have done what we had to do [in Afghanistan]; our contingent of soldiers is at a useful number,” Erdoğan said at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport in response to journalists’ questions about the U.S. request to NATO allies for more troops to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“If you ask what we can do beyond that... we can provide training there for the Afghan security forces, which so far we’ve been doing in our country,” said Erdoğan, adding that reconstruction and sanitary aid are other areas in which Turkey might take part.
Erdoğan said Turkey has invested $150 million in Afghanistan in the fields of education, health and infrastructure and added that an additional $50 million would be invested in the first phase.
“All these are sincere steps taken to carry our historical association and brotherhood into the future and we will carry on taking these steps,” the prime minister said. “Our Armed Forces that have assumed command for the third time are in a position to preserve and continue the association and tolerance between themselves and the Afghan people. In order to achieve this, we will keep the promises we have made.”
Turkey-Israel relations were another topic in Erdoğan’s meeting with the reporters. The prime minister said that the Washington administration was happy with the good relations between Turkey and Israel. Asked whether this would lead to Turkey assuming a mediator role in the Middle East, Erdoğan said it would be impossible to assume such a role unless the sides requested it.
Erdoğan said his government had done everything in its power to contribute to peace in the Middle East and added that there were numerous international institutions and actors involved in the Middle East peace process.
Meanwhile, Israeli Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Saturday that Israeli-Turkish relations were back on track following a recent crisis, prompting Turkey’s return to the role of mediator vis-à-vis Syria, reported Israel’s ynetnews.com
“We are on the eve of reestablishing the state of ties between Israel and Turkey to what it used to be, with a reality whereby Turkey goes back to its role as mediator vis-à-vis Turkey,” said Ben-Eliezer.
Erdoğan will meet Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama, who announced last Tuesday the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan. Obama’s announcement has been followed by U.S. allies pledging some 7,000 extra troops.
Though a member of the Western military alliance, Turkey has refused to send its troops on combat missions. The 1,700 Turkish troops in Afghanistan are involved in patrolling the capital city of Kabul.