Diplomacy played key role in freeing Mosul hostages
President Erdoğan meets the freed hostages in Ankara after their 101 days of captivity in the hands of ISIL. AA PhotoPolitical bargaining and diplomacy played a key role in freeing 49 hostages from extremist jihadists, Turkey’s president has said, denying that a ransom was paid but hinting that a swap deal might have taken place to save the country’s Mosul consul general and 48 others.
“I do not know what they mean by bargaining. If they refer to materialistic bargaining, it’s totally out of the question. But if they talk about diplomatic bargaining, yes, it’s certainly true. This is a diplomatic success, the result of a political bargain,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at a press conference he held before his departure to the United States Sept. 21.
His statement was the answer to a question about claims that Turkey made a deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to end 101 days of captivity of 49 hostages. While Erdoğan categorically ruled out that a ransom was paid to ISIL, he implied that a swap deal with jihadists could have occurred.
Responding to a question over claims that Turkey agreed to release three ISIL militants in return for 49 hostages, Erdoğan said: “Whether there was a swap or not. Of course, everybody will write something about it. What we look at here is: Whether a swap has taken place or not, our 49 citizens returned to Turkey. Even if this swap took place, as the president, I always look after my 49 citizens. Nothing can be of more value than my citizens. They are now back to my country.”
Erdoğan repeated that the operation to free the Turkish hostages was conducted by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) without the involvement of any other country’s secret service.
Some 46 Turkish citizens, including Öztürk Yılmaz, the consul general in Mosul, and three Iraqi staff were kidnapped on June 11 by ISIL after the militants seized control of all of Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city. Their 101 days in captivity finished with a happy ending on Sept. 20, following the Turkish intelligence agency’s intense work and a secret operation.
The statement heralding the news that Yılmaz and other hostages had been brought to Turkey after they have been freed was issued by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at 6:10 a.m. Turkish local time.
“We have taken our citizens and brought them back to our country,” Davutoğlu told reporters in a short press conference in Baku, where he was conducting a visit before departing to Şanlıurfa, a city near the border with Syria, to meet the freed hostages. He added that the Turkish captives crossed into Turkey at 5 a.m. through the Akçakale border gate.
A more comprehensive statement about the release of the Turkish hostages came from the presidency early on Sept. 20. “Our consul general in Mosul, his family and Turkish citizens at the consulate who had been abducted have been freed in a successful operation,” Erdoğan said in a written statement.
“I thank the prime minister and his colleagues for this carefully planned, detailed and secret operation, which continued all night and was successfully completed early in the morning,” the statement added.