Turkish MPs approve troops to Iraq

Turkey's parliament has approved a government motion allowing for the dispatch of troops to neighbouring Iraq as requested by the United States.

    Chiefs of staff await instructions on size of troop deployment

    After a two-and-a-half hour debate in closed session on Tuesday, parliament backed the deployment by 358 votes compared to 183 against.

    Turkish peacekeepers will seek to relieve pressure on US forces in Iraq and bolster Ankara's ties with Washington.
     
    The vote comes one day after the cabinet agreed to send troops to its southern neighbour.

    Confidence paid off

    Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whose party holds a majority government, had always believed parliament would approve the motion, despite polls showing two thirds of Turks oppose the move.

    Cemil Cicek told reporters the government anticipated a year-long deployment, but did not specify how many troops would be sent.

    The Turkish parliament has defied
    popular sentiment

    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 has debated its involvement with the war-battered country.

    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.

    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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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