ISIL’s Turkish hostages safe: Deputy PM Arınç

ISIL’s Turkish hostages safe: Deputy PM Arınç

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
ISIL’s Turkish hostages safe: Deputy PM Arınç

Deputy PM and Government Spokesperson Bülent Arınç speaks at a press conference after the first Cabinet meeting under Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Sept. 1. AA Photo

The government is in contact with the Turkish Consulate members in Mosul who were kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Iraq and their whereabouts are known, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said on Sept. 1.

“Fortunately they are alive. Their whereabouts are known. We have contact with them,” Arınç said, noting that the government had not been able to bring them back to Turkey as the case “has a special situation.”

ISIL militants kidnapped 49 people from the Turkish Consulate-General in Mosul on June 11, including 46 Turkish nationals. The hostages were moved to another location in the city in early July, according to Turkish diplomats.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore said there is “not a cigarette paper of difference” among NATO members, including Turkey, regarding the threat posed by ISIL.

“I don’t think there is even a cigarette paper of difference between NATO members in their attitude towards ISIL. We all recognize it for what it is,” Moore told reporters Sept. 1, in response to a question regarding Turkey’s attitude in declaring ISIL as a terrorist organization.

“I have noted comments from İbrahim Kalın, an adviser to the prime ministry, and the [Religious Affairs Directorate] Diyanet making it very clear about ISIL and its presumption in declaring itself a caliphate,” Moore added.

He also recalled that the U.K. and Turkey have a long standing cooperation on issues of counterterrorism and said there had been a lot of talks about foreign fighters.

“We think we have around 400-500 British citizens who have traveled to join the fight in Syria and Iraq. It’s really difficult in a democratic society to police these people going to get involved. It is difficult for security agencies. Likewise, it is very difficult for Turkish officials to identify these people and take action against them,” Moore said.

“We do have real commitment to work together with Turkey on this,” he said, adding that the two countries had achieved success on the issue but could not make it public due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Also touching on the key upcoming NATO summit in Wales, the ambassador said British Prime Minister David Cameron would hold a full bilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the gathering.

Merkel defends weapon decision

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended a watershed decision to send arms to Iraqi Kurds battling militants, saying Europe’s “own security was at stake.”

Merkel told the German parliament that the decision marked a break with Germany’s post-war tradition of refusing to send weapons into conflict zones, but stressed that the situation was critical in strife-torn Iraq, the scene of “inconceivable atrocities” against civilians.

“We have the opportunity to save lives and stop the further spread of mass murder in Iraq,” Merkel said during an impassioned 25-minute speech, Agence France-Presse reported. “We have the chance to prevent terrorists from creating another safe haven for themselves. We must take this chance.”

The German government announced late Aug. 31 that it would send military equipment including anti-tank rocket launchers, rifles and hand grenades, to Iraqi Kurds fighting to stop ISIL militants.