Turkey will fight Isis in Mosul, President Erdogan says

Bitter row between Ankara and Baghdad over role of Turkish troops in battle to retake Mosul threatens future of operation, US says 

Monday 17 October 2016 12:16 BST
President Erdogan insists on Turkey’s involvement in the fighting in Mosul
President Erdogan insists on Turkey’s involvement in the fighting in Mosul

It is “out of the question” for Turkish troops to stay out of the US-backed Iraqi army offensive to retake the northern city of Mosul from Isis, the Turkish president has said.

“We will be in the operation and we will be at the table,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated in a televised speech on Monday. “Our brothers are there and our relatives are there. It is out of the question that we are not involved.”

Mr Erdoğan's comments came as Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the long-awaited operation to reclaim the city has begun.

The small presence of Turkish troops and Turkish-trained Sunni militias in Bashiqa north of Mosul has caused a major rift between Ankara and Baghdad.

Turkish troops have been stationed in the area for more than a year, training local militias to fight Isis, which Mr Abadi views as a breach of Iraqi sovereignty. Turkey is worried that the fact that Shiite forces are at the forefront of the operation to retake the majority-Sunni city will be a flashpoint for future tensions once the complex battle to oust Isis is over.

In his speech Mr Erdogan indicated that US officials had spoken with the Turkish military, urging Ankara not to let the infighting compromise the success of the offensive.

“No-one should expect us to leave Bashiqa. We are there and have made all kinds of operations against Isis,” he said.

Millions in need of aid as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul

In a sign that Turkey is trying to make some amends with Iraq, Turkish news reported on Monday that a diplomatic delegation is en route to Baghdad to discuss the offensive.

Kurdish peshmerga forces made gains on Mosul on Monday, taking control of seven formerly Isis-controlled villages to the east of the city. The advance has been accompanied by Western coalition air strikes on key Isis sites.

Defeat for Isis in Mosul would spell the group’s end in Iraq, but the fighting is likely to come at a huge civilian cost: militants are heavily embedded in the city and prepared to use residents as human shields.

The UN’s humanitarian wing warns that up to 700,000 people could be displaced and in need of emergency assistance in just the first few days of the offensive.

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