Istanbul (AFP): President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday indicated that Turkey would play a role in the US-backed Iraqi offensive to retake the city of Mosul from jihadists, saying it was unthinkable that Ankara would stay on the sidelines.
“We will be in the operation and we will be at the table,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. “Our brothers are there and our relatives are there. It is out of the question that we are not involved.”
The build-up for the offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) jihadists who have held Iraq’s second city since June 2014 was marked by a bitter squabble between Ankara and Baghdad over the planning.
But Erdogan had indicated that the issue was discussed in talks in the United States over the weekend between Turkish chief of staff General Hulusi Akar and US counterpart Joseph Dunford.
Turkey had raised concern over the possible involvement of Iraqi Shiite and anti-Ankara Kurdish militia in the offensive, while Baghdad had lashed out at the presence of a contingent of Turkish troops in Bashiqa north of Mosul.
But Erdogan said the Turkish troops — whose task is ostensibly to train Sunni anti-IS fighters — were in Bashiqa to stay.
“No-one should expect us to leave Bashiqa. We are there and have made all kinds of operations against Daesh (IS).”
In a sign Ankara was trying to lower the temperature with Baghdad, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that a top-level Turkish delegation was on its way to the Iraqi capital led by foreign ministry undersecretary Umit Yalcin.