Turkey to step up war against terror in Iraq: FM Çavuşoğlu
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
AFP PhotoTurkey is participating “in a multi-faceted way” in the operation to retake Mosul province from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and four Turkish F-16 jets are part of the anti-ISIL coalition forces, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has stressed.
Turkish artillery fire has killed 17 ISIL militants since Mosul offensive began, Çavuşoğlu stated on Oct. 24 at a press conference in Ankara with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
“The Peshmerga forces that we trained in Iraq actively participated in the Mosul operation. The forces that we trained in the Bashiqa camp [in northern Iraq] have also been actively involved in the operation against ISIL,” he said.
His comments come amid conflicting signals about the extent of Turkey’s involvement, with the Baghdad government insisting that Turkey must not be involved in the Mosul operation.
Çavuşoğlu said Turkish warplanes are part of the U.S.-led coalition participating in the aerial campaign, but the details of their participation will be negotiated by the Turkish military and other coalition members.
He added that Turkish troops at a military camp in the Bashiqa region of northern Iraq, which the Iraqi Parliament has demanded Turkey leave, have killed total of 700 ISIL militants so far.
“No other country has single-handedly neutralized so many ISIL terrorists. Our common purpose, with France, is to clear ISIL out of Iraq and Syria. Iraq is our neighbor and brother country. Iraq’s territorial integrity, security and stability is as important as our own security,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“Unfortunately, [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK terrorists from different parts of Iraq have come to our country and organized attacks,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu vowed that Ankara would be “even more active” in fighting against PKK-linked elements in northern Iraq, saying Turkey will never allow the Sinjar region to become a “second Qandil,” which is the headquarters of the group in Iraq.
Asked about Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s remarks that Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) would discuss declaring a safe haven in northern Iraq, Çavuşoğlu said they would “make Turkish borders more secure with additional measures taken both in Turkish territory and on the Iraqi side.”
“There are 40,000 displaced people in the refugee camp that we established in Iraq and we deliver humanitarian aid on a daily basis here” he said, noting that most of the world talks about Syrian refugees but there are over 300,000 Iraqi refugees in Turkey who have fled conflict in their homeland.
His remarks came after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said claims that Turkish troops have taken part in the ongoing Mosul operation are “baseless and untrue,” again calling on Turkish troops to withdraw.
Iraq’s joint operations command on Oct. 24 denied that Turkey was participating in military operations to retake the northern city of Mosul from ISIL.
“The spokesman of the Joint Operations Command denies Turkish participation of any kind in operations for the liberation of Nineveh,” a statement said, referring to the Iraqi province of which Mosul is the capital.
Baghdad objects to presence of more than 600 Turkish troops in Bashiqa, which have been training local Sunni Arab and Kurdish forces. Ankara refuses to withdraw those solders and is pushing to play a more active role in the Mosul operation.