Turkey joins coalition for Mosul operation
Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA
REUTERS photoTurkey and the United States have reached an agreement in which Turkish warplanes will join an ongoing operation to capture Mosul, the prime minister has said, adding that Turkey’s F-16 Fighting Falcons would be called for duty by the Kuwait-based command center if required.
The agreement between the two allies was reached at a meeting between Turkish and American chiefs of general staff in Washington over the weekend, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in a phone interview with daily Hürriyet on Oct. 18.
Yıldırım said the deal referred to the Turkish Air Force’s participation in air strikes by coalition forces against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in and around Mosul.
The announcement came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly pressed for Turkey’s active participation in the operation and to sit at the same table with all coalition countries.
Turkey is not joining aerial strikes right now, Yıldırım said. “But there is an agreement on the participation of Turkish aerial vehicles in the operation in principle. In the event there is a need, our warplanes will participate as part of the coalition. What is important is to be part of it,” Yıldırım told reporters after a parliamentary group meeting. His earlier remarks at the group were interpreted as suggesting that Turkish jets had already joined the coalition’s aerial campaign.
Fighting Falcons to join operation
According to the agreement, Turkey will put a certain number of its F-16 Fighting Falcons under the order of the Kuwait-based Mosul Operation Command Center. The warplanes will be called for duty on daily and weekly assignments. Turkish warplanes will take off from Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana. Turkish warplanes will conduct a minimum of two and a maximum of 10 sorties a day, according to the agreement.
Turkey, meanwhile, has said it will not conduct any aerial strikes in which there could be civilian casualties, daily Hürriyet has learned.
Coalition to continue to use İncirlik
The agreement between the two countries also envisages the use of İncirlik by coalition warplanes that have already been deployed to the base. Another military base in Diyarbakır, however, will be used as the center of communication and of search and rescue operations. The center will play an important role in conducting aerial strikes against ISIL during the Mosul operation.
The deal does not include Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles on the grounds that the control of the drones will be under the Kuwait command center and because of the intense fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey to attend France meeting
In the meantime, Turkey will attend a meeting of anti-ISIL coalition countries to be held in Paris on Oct. 20. The meeting will be co-chaired by the French and Iraqi foreign ministers who will review ongoing efforts to defeat ISIL. France will host a defense ministers’ meeting in Paris in Oct. 25 as well.