Turkey, US in close touch over Iraq

Turkey, US in close touch over Iraq

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, US in close touch over Iraq

Thousands of Shiite volunteers join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities this week.

Turkey and the United States are in close coordination over developments in Iraq, as security conditions have worsened since last week after jihadists seized control of a number of key cities, Turkish diplomatic sources have said.

“There is very close coordination with the U.S. on Iraq,” sources said, upon questions about a potential U.S. air strike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. However, they also underlined that U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent statements on Iraq were “vague,” and there was no strong opinion about whether there will be military involvement.

A potential U.S. strike is very important for Turkey, as at least 80 Turkish citizens, including its Mosul consul general, have been held hostage by ISIL since June 11. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on June 19 that a U.S. offensive was “unlikely” as it could bring about civilian casualties.

The information that Turkey has received in recent days is that the rapid advance of ISIL toward Baghdad has been slowed down as a result of effective defense by the Iraqi army, sources said, adding that an ISIL convoy was recently hit by the Iraqi army. Meanwhile, there are also reports that ISIL troops have met strong resistance in Beiji, where Iraq’s most important oil refinery is located.

Turkish officials also confirmed that efforts to establish a new government in Iraq were accelerating, but did not comment on whether current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should leave his position to allow a greater consensus between different ethnic and sectarian groups.

Although clashes between troops and ISIL continue, Baghdad airport is still operating and Turkey’s efforts to evacuate its citizens are continuing. Some 250 workers from Turkish private company, Enka, were recently transported to Turkey via air, sources said.