Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has signaled disappointment over Turkey’s role in the struggle against Islamist militants in Iraq, saying that although Turkey is sending humanitarian aid to the region, Arbil had expected more from Turkey, a Turkish daily has reported.
In his remarks to the Milliyet daily published on Monday, Barzani commented on the recent developments in Iraq and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
When asked if the KRG receives arms aid from Turkey, Barzani said there is humanitarian aid coming from Turkey.
“Of course, our expectations were high. I cannot say it [Turkey’s aid] is sufficient. We know how important the hostage issue [Turkish hostages have been held captive by ISIL] is to Turkey; we understand. However, the strategic threat posed by ISIL shouldn’t be underestimated in Turkey. Aid has been given; but of course we expected more,” Barzani was quoted by Milliyet as saying.
The KRG prime minister was referring to the Turkish citizens taken hostage by ISIL in June. Forty-nine Turks — including the consul general in Mosul, Öztürk Yılmaz, special forces soldiers, diplomats and dependents — were taken hostage on June 11 when ISIL seized the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul. Turkey has signaled objections to a military intervention in Iraq where its citizens have been held captive for almost three months and refrained from directly getting involved in the fight against ISIL.
In his remarks to the Anadolu news agency published on its website, Çavuşoğlu also commented on arms shipment to Iraq.
When asked if there are expectations from Turkey to supply military assistance, Çavuşoğlu said Turkish officials said Turkey will act in line with its allies regarding the threats in the region during the NATO summit. However, he said there has been no expectation or demand for Turkey to take up any task up until now.
Çavuşoğlu also warned of arms being sent to Iraq for the fight against ISIL. The foreign minister said it may not be possible to control where these weapons will go.
“Weapons being sent should not end up in the hands of terrorist organizations. [These weapons] should not fall into the hands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK]. We also expressed our concerns on this issue [during the NATO summit],” he is quoted as saying by Anadolu.
Germany and Italy joined Britain and France in saying that they would arm Iraqi Kurdish security forces fighting ISIL militants in northern Iraq, in close coordination with the Baghdad central government.
During the interview, Barzani underlined that nobody could escape from ISIL, even those who are avoiding being included in the fight against ISIL. He also urged neighboring countries to Iraq to be watchful and handle the ISIL advance strategically.
“When ISIL feels so strong as to open a new front, Turkey will get its own share [from its advance] sooner or later. Its leader [ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-] Baghdadi claims that he is the caliph of all Muslims and the map [that ISIL has drawn, showing the boundaries of its territories] is very clear. It also includes Turkey. ISIL is a threat to the stability of the entire region. There is only one solution to defeat terrorist organizations: to fight against them. ISIL is not only a threat to us but also to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia,” Barzani reportedly said.
Barzani also mentioned the Turkish hostages in the hands of ISIL. He said when the incidents started in Mosul, he talked with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu a few times and also called the Turkish consul general to Mosul a couple of times, suggesting the evacuation of the consulate.
“But he said they are fine and don’t need any help. We were surprised. I guess the consul general made a wrong assessment,” the KRG leader said, adding, “As far as we know, they were being kept to the west of the Tigris [river], in a Kurdish area, but they were taken to another place.”