Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again insisted on the necessity for Turkish involvement in the battle for Mosul, saying Turkey has an "historical responsibility" in the region, referring to Mosul's past as part of the Ottoman Empire.

Speaking at a ceremony in Ankara to mark the start of the academic year on Tuesday, Erdogan said Turkey did not want to be party to any sectarian conflict in Iraq, but voiced his concern for the future of Sunni Arab and Turkmens in the city.

ANALYSIS: What is Turkey trying to achieve in Iraq?

"If we say we want to be both at the table and in the field, there is a reason," he said.

He voiced warnings against the direct involvement of Shia Muslim militias in the operation following allegations that such militias have committed atrocities against the Sunni population in other parts of Iraq.

"They say 30,000 Shia militants are coming. They should be prepared for what they will face."

Erdogan also told the Iraqi government that it should "deal" with other armed groups like ISIL and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "rather than acting tough with us".

 

'We are a NATO member'

In his speech, Erdogan called on the United States to better assess Turkey’s position in the Mosul operation.

Recalling that Turkey is a NATO member, he said: "Do you have a NATO partnership with Iraq? No. Then you can't put us in a position of preference against Iraq. You talked about Afghanistan. Was it Iraq that walked with you in Afghanistan? Did countries other than NATO allies join in the Afghanistan war? It was us carrying out this struggle with you."

IN PICTURES: Knocking on Mosul's door

Ankara’s insistence on playing a role in the operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) has come under criticism both in Baghdad and the US in the recent days.

Inside Story - Recapturing Mosul

The US recently told Turkey to respect the Iraqi government's wishes regarding its military presence in the country.

"All of Iraq's neighbours need to respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity," State Department spokesman John Kirby said last week.

"We call on both governments to focus on their common enemy, our common enemy, which is Daesh," Kirby said, referring to ISIL by an Arabic acronym.

Referring to US comments, Erdogan said: "You are coming from tens of thousands of kilometers away and you have the right to say Baghdad has called for you. OK, but Turkey has a 350-kilometer border and there is always a threat.

"Turkey has a historical responsibility there. So we will be there."

'Turkish jets will join the operation'

In a seperate speech to AKP delegates in Ankara on Tuesday, Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkish jets have not yet been used in the offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIL, but will be deployed when the time comes.

"There is agreement on Turkey taking part in the coalition in Iraq," Yildirim said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said an Iraqi delegation was due to arrive in Turkey towards the end of the week, as diplomats try to de-escalate the tensions.

"Both sides essentially have the will to solve this through dialogue," Cavusoglu said Tuesday during a visit to Tashkent, quoted by the Anadolu news agency. He added the delegation would come "maybe Thursday".

It comes after a top-level Turkish delegation led by foreign ministry undersecretary Umit Yalcin went to Baghdad Monday.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces closing in on Mosul said on Tuesday they had secured some 20 villages on the outskirts of the city in the first day of an operation to retake ISIL's last major stronghold in Iraq.

Why is Mosul important?

Source: Al Jazeera News And News Agencies