Turkey sends arms to Iraqi Kurds: Arbil official

Turkey sends arms to Iraqi Kurds: Arbil official

Turkey sends arms to Iraqi Kurds: Arbil official

An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at ISIL positions from his position on the top of Mount Zardak. AFP Photo / JM Lopez

In addition to training troops, Turkey has sent weapons to the Iraqi Kurdish forces combating the Islamist militants who have swept across large parts of the country, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein has said.

Speaking in an interview with daily Hürriyet columnist Verda Özer in Istanbul, Hussein confirmed that Turkey had begun training Peshmerga troops in northern Iraq, also saying it has supplied arms to the Kurdish forces.

“Turkey has sent arms aid as well,” Hussein said during his Istanbul visit, which came only few days after Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s trip to Baghdad and Arbil.

When asked whether these were heavy weapons, he answered, “No, they haven’t sent heavy weapons yet, but I hope they will.”

Turkey has been providing military training and assistance to the Peshmerga forces of the KRG for several weeks.

A senior Foreign Ministry official recently told the Hürriyet Daily News that some 230 Peshmerga have been trained by Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq so far.

Peshmerga forces constitute a key fraction of the coalition battling against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the country, along with Iraqi forces, militias and a U.S.-led coalition that supports the battle with airstrikes.

‘Turkey suggested Peshmerga should join Kobane fight’

Hussein also told the background story of the Peshmerga forces joining Syrian Kurds fighting against ISIL in the Syrian border town of Kobane.

According to Hussein, the operation of transferring Peshmerga forces to Kobane was planned in three stages. “First Turkey and the U.S. [held talks], then the U.S. and Arbil [held talks] and then Turkey and Arbil held talks. Finally, we all met in Duhok and finalized the details,” he said.

He added that Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of State, said Turkey had suggested the Peshmerga’s flow to Kobane in the first place.

When asked how the negotiations with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) had proceeded, Hussein said he had "personally held the talks with the PYD in Duhok.”

“They only wanted weapons, but we told them they need fighters to use weapons,” he stated, adding  that the PYD insisted that the number of Peshmerga forces coming to Kobane should only be around 150, despite initially agreeing on up to 200 troops.

Touching on whether more Peshmerga will join the fight in Kobane, Hussein said there was no such demand for now. “This also depends on the situation in Kobane and Turkey’s relations with the PYD,” he added.