Turkish troops to join UN forces in Bosnia

Peter Pringle,New York
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:47

UNDER pressure from Western powers, the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was expected last night to approve the politically sensitive deployment of 1,000 Turkish troops in Bosnia as part of the upgrading of the UN force there.

Previously he had rejected the Turkish offer because of Ankara's sympathy for Bosnian Muslims and the Ottoman Empire's role as ruler of the Balkans for 500 years until the First World War.

The Turkish troops will be among reinforcements, including 900 British troops, expected in Bosnia shortly in answer to the call by UN commanders facing the increasing demands of peace-keeping.

In military terms, Turkey's offer is attractive to Western powers because, as a Nato member, Ankara will be ready to join the UN force immediately and will have compatible weapon systems. Politically and diplomatically, the move counterbalances the deployment of troops from Russia, which favours the Serbs.

British and US diplomats yesterday played down the sensitive nature of the Turkish involvement, emphasising that the Russian and the Turkish troops would act as UN forces under a British commander.

After the UN call for extra troops, Britain initiated talks here, described by diplomats as 'catalysing', between the 34 contributors to the Bosnian force. Yesterday several nations indicated they would provide reinforcements. Among them were Poland, Argentina, Spain and Canada. France said it would send a further 800 and Ukraine, 1,200.

The total number of reinforcements so far indicated amounts to about 5,000, only half the number called for by the UN commanders, but officials here said the 10,000 figure was an 'opening bid' which was not expected to be met.

However, John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that some 50,000 Western troops, half of them American, would be needed to oversee any peace agreement.

In London, the Cabinet meets today, after which Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, is expected to confirm in the Commons that Britain's contribution will be 900 more troops.

Russia criticises US, page 12

Jonathan Eyal, page 21

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments