NATO chief calls for immediate release of Turkish citizens held in Iraq
ANKARA - Reuters
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, (R) and NATO's Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen shake hands as they pose for cameras before a meeting in Ankara, June 16. AP PhotoNATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on June 16 for the immediate release of Turkish diplomatic and security staff held by insurgents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
"We follow the dangerous developments in Iraq with great concern. I condemn the unacceptable attack on the consulate general in Mosul," Rasmussen said during a visit to Ankara, standing beside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Some 49 members of Turkey's Mosul Consulate and 31 truck drivers were kidnapped by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) after they seized Mosul late June 9. One of the Turkish drivers had managed to escape over the week-end.
"We want to see all of the Turkish hostages released and we want to see them safe," Rasmussen said.
The ISIL offensive threatens to dismember Iraq and leaves Turkey, a NATO member, facing a widening Islamist insurgency in two of its southern neighbours, with ISIL also making territorial gains in Syria near the Turkish border.
During his visit to Ankara on June 16, Rasmussen is also expected to meet both President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan has said the hostages are unharmed and that all efforts are being made to secure their release.
On June 12, Rasmussen had said that he did not foresee a role for NATO in Iraq after the seizure of the Turkish consulate in Mosul.
“I don’t see a role for NATO in Iraq, but of course we will follow the situation closely and urge all parties involved to stop the violence,” Rasmussen said during a conference in Madrid.