Ankara, Baghdad reach agreement
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