Sat, Oct 22, 2016 - Page 6 News List

US’ Carter urges Turkey to respect Iraq

ISLAMIC STATE FOCUS:The US Defense Secretary said all parties should resolve to keep the agenda on a defeat of the Islamic State, because that is the common threat

AP, ANKARA

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter arrived in Turkey on Friday, saying he would tell Turkish leaders that it is important to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

He stopped short of saying that he would press Turkey to remove any forces that are operating in Iraq without Baghdad’s invitation.

Carter’s expected meetings in Ankara with top leaders and defense officials come amid escalating tensions between Turkey and Iraq over Turkish military operations in northern Iraq as allied forces move to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants.

“We’ve long had discussions with everyone about this — about respect for Iraqi sovereignty in the course of the conduct of the counter-ISIL campaign,” Carter told reporters traveling with him to Turkey.

“It’s very important for all the members of the counter-ISIL campaign to participate in that integrated way,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

“Will I be talking with the Turks about that? Absolutely,” he said.

It was not clear how strong Carter intended to be in his discussions with Turkish leaders, or what effect his words could have on the situation.

The key is to “keep everybody focused on the object here which is to defeat ISIL, because that is a threat to all three of us,” he said.

The angry rhetoric between Iraq and Turkey has grown as the Mosul campaign continues to take shape.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have traded insults and earlier this week thousands of followers of a Shiite cleric rallied outside the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, calling for an end to the Turkish “occupation.”

They were referring to the presence of about 500 Turkish troops at a base north of Mosul who have been training Sunni and Kurdish fighters since December last year.

Baghdad says the troops are there without permission and has called on them to withdraw.

Ankara has refused, and insists it will play a role in liberating the city.

The Turkish troops are training Kurdish forces loyal to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

At the same time, the US is also looking into reports that Turkish jets and artillery struck Syrian Kurds in northern Syria on Thursday, killing as many as 200.

Carter also said he had few details on the incident and questions remain about the casualty total and whether the Kurdish forces were ones backed by the US.

The Syrian Kurdish forces have been a source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the US. The US considers the militia group — the People’s Protection Units, or YPG — to be the most effective force in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Turkey says the YPG is an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish militants, who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey, which considers it to be a terrorist organization.

Carter said he wants to talk to Turkish leaders about the ongoing effort to secure Turkey’s border with Syria.

Turkey has stepped up its military air and ground operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and recently was able to help retake the symbolically important town of Dabiq.

That was a “very significant victory,” Carter said.

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