Turkish president calls for land operation in Syria and Iraq

Turkish president calls for land operation in Syria and Iraq

Turkish president calls for land operation in Syria and Iraq

AP Photo

A land operation is necessary to support air operations in Syria and Iraq if the military operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is to be successful, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“I don’t believe that airstrikes are sufficient to defeat Daesh [ISIL] in Syria and Iraq. A ground offensive is needed along with airstrikes so that air operations can be successful,” Erdoğan said on April 22 at a joint press conference with Iraqi President Fuad Masum. 

Turkey has been providing support to Iraq as part of efforts to fight ISIL and will continue to do so, he said. Yet, a “comprehensive and global strategy” is needed to defeat ISIL, Erdoğan said, adding that even if the group is destroyed, something else will emerge under a different name.

“Where do its weapons and financing come from? We need to focus on this,” he said. Erdoğan also questioned the role of ISIL fighters coming from non-Muslim countries. 

The Turkish president likened ISIL to a “virus aiming to destroy ummah [the Islamic community].” 

Elaborating on Turkey’s support to Iraq in its struggle against ISIL, Erdoğan said 750 trucks of humanitarian aid have been delivered to the Iraqi people so far, while 300,000 Iraqi refugees have been hosted in Turkey, along with three other camps set up in northern Iraq. 

Asking for further support from Turkey and other countries in Iraq’s fight against the jihadist group, Masum said they have information that ISIL could launch attacks in other regions of the world such as in Australia, Canada, Tunisia and Africa.

Both leaders expressed gratification for the bilateral ties between Turkey and Iraq gaining momentum. Masum said total trade volume, which is nearly $11 billion at the moment, could be more than $20 billion if relations do not falter for a period, an indirect reference to strained ties between Ankara and Baghdad during the prime ministry of Nouri al-Maliki.

Erdoğan expressed Turkey’s willingness to enhance energy cooperation with Baghdad. “We want to purchase Iraqi natural gas. Talks are ongoing on this issue,” he said.

The Turkish president also slammed EU countries for their policies over illegal migrant boats trying to reach the continent. “There are statements coming from Europe laying grounds to sink off these boats. Europeans discussing this [approach] is fate,” he said.

ISIL poses utmost risk for Turkey

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on April 22, said ISIL poses the utmost risk for Turkey. 

Turkey does not want any foreign fighters in its territory, nor in Syria, Davutoğlu said, noting Turkey was ready to cooperate on every issue regarding the fight against ISIL.