Turkish cabinet backs troops to Iraq

The Turkish cabinet has agreed to send troops to Iraq, a move requested and welcomed by the United States.

    Premier Tayyip Erdogan believes parliament will approve

    The government sent a motion to parliament on Monday evening, and a vote could come as early as Tuesday.

    Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose party holds a majority government, believes parliament will approve the motion.

    "Had we had any doubts, we wouldn't be sending this motion," government spokesman Cemil Cicek told reporters after Monday's five-hour cabinet meeting.

    He said the motion called for a year-long deployment, but did not specify how many troops would be sent.

    But

    Turkish officials have signalled in the past they could commit as many as 10,000 peacekeepers to Iraq. They are expected to be deployed in Arab-dominated central Iraq rather than in the mainly Kurdish north.

    It is the second time that Turkey will debate its involvement with the war-battered country.

    "Our position on troops from neighbouring countries is that it will complicate the security and political environment inside Iraq"

    Barham Salih,
    Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

    In March, parliament rejected a motion to allow US forces deploy from Turkish soil for an invasion of Iraq.

    US welcome

    The United States has welcomed the move by the Turkish government.

    "Turkey has an important role to play in stabilising Iraq,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We continue our discussions with Turkish authorities on the details of possible deployment, if parliament endorses the government's request." 

    Turkey, in desperate need of economic aid, earlier negotiated loans of $8.5 billion from the US. But that aid is believed to be contingent on Turkey’s cooperation with the US. However, Washington has denied the loans hinge on the sending of peacekeepers.

    Financial markets concerned about the loans have been watching closely for the government to push through the motion.

    Kurds nervous

    But Iraqi Kurds are wary of any decision from Ankara to deploy Turkish soldiers to Iraq.

    Iraqi Kurds are worried they will
    face a Turkish occupation 

    "Our position on troops from neighbouring countries is that it will complicate the security and political environment inside Iraq," Barham Salih, a senior Iraqi Kurd official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said after meeting Turkish officials in Ankara on Monday.

    "Whatever decision Turkey takes, it should always respect the will of the Iraqi people and of Iraq's Governing Council."

    Turkey is mired in a struggle with its own Kurdish rebels – many of whom are thought to be hiding in northern Iraq

    An opinion poll by the Denge agency published in Monday's Radikal newspaper showed 50% of those asked said sending peacekeepers to Iraq was a mistake.

    Only 40% supported the government on the issue.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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