Ankara, Bagh­dad reach agree­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

ANKARA: Turkey and Iraq have reached an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple which could even­tu­ally al­low a Turk­ish role in the cam­paign to re­take Mo­sul from the Is­lamic State, US de­fence sec­re­tary Ash Carter said yes­ter­day af­ter talks with Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan.

Er­do­gan has pre­vi­ously voiced frus­tra­tion that Nato mem­ber Turkey has not been more in­volved in the US-backed as­sault on the Iraqi city, once part of the Ot­toman em­pire and still seen by Turkey as firmly within its sphere of in­flu­ence. Iraq, mean­while, views Turk­ish mil­i­tary moves on its ter­ri­tory with ap­pre­hen­sion and any agree­ment on Mo­sul would defuse a ma­jor source of ten­sion be­tween the neigh­bours.

Mo­sul is the last big strong­hold held by the IS in Iraq and about five times larger than any other city it has held.

The push to cap­ture it is ex­pected to be­come the big­gest bat­tle in Iraq since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion. Carter made it clear that de­tails on Turkey’s po­ten­tial role in the un­fold­ing Mo­sul cam­paign still needed to be ham­mered out and a se­nior US de­fence of­fi­cial noted non-mil­i­tary as­sis­tance was also a pos­si­bil­ity.

“That will have to ob­vi­ously be some­thing that the Iraqi gov­ern­ment will need to agree to and I think there’s agree­ment there in prin­ci­ple,” Carter said. “But now we’re down to the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of that... and that’s what we’re work­ing through.”

Turkey has been locked in a row with Iraq’s cen­tral gov­ern­ment over the pres­ence of Turk­ish troops at the Bashiqa camp near Mo­sul, where it has trained thou­sands of forces.

Er­do­gan has warned of sec­tar­ian blood­shed if the Iraqi army re­lies on Shia mili­tia fight­ers to re­take the largely Sunni city of Mo­sul.

Turk­ish de­fence min­is­ter Fikri Isik also said there was agree­ment in prin­ci­ple on Turk­ish in­volve­ment in “de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture of Mo­sul” and that he had agreed with his US coun­ter­part on the need for the three coun­tries to work to­gether to re­duce ten­sions be­tween Ankara and Bagh­dad. – Reuters

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