Turkey’s parliament this week approved sending troops to neighbouring Iraq to help secure and rebuild the war-ravaged country. But Iraq’s US-appointed Governing Council said it is opposed to interference from neighbouring countries.
Talks in Baghdad between the Council and the US have so far failed to resolve the deadlock, which comes amid mounting US casualties in Iraq.
“We are ready to begin negotiations but we are waiting for the US to overcome the Iraqi opposition. The ball is in America’s court,” a senior Turkish official, who declined to be identified, told AFP.
Negotiations in Ankara are expected to focus on the size and location of the Turkish deployment, other logistical issues and the combating of Turkish Kurdish rebels holed up in northern Iraq.
Officials have said in the past that Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member, could send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq. They are most likely to be deployed not in the mainly Kurdish north but in central Iraq, which is dominated by Arab Sunni Muslims.
To avoid provoking the Kurds in northern Iraq, who are wary of Turkey’s intentions after years of animosity, the troops could enter the country via regions dominated by Turkish-speaking ethnic Turkmen, the Hurriyet daily reported on Friday.
Iraq’s Turkmens generally favour Turkey’s troop deployment.
Turkish officials said they had also pressed America to agree to open a second border crossing between Turkey and Iraq to help relieve congestion at the Habur entry point.
Turkey already has several thousand soldiers in northern Iraq in bases set up in the mid-1990s to fight Turkish Kurd guerrillas. Turkish troops also command a peacekeeping force along a long-quiet front between two Iraqi Kurdish factions.
Iraq’s Kurds accuse Ankara of trying to stir up ethnic tensions between them and the Kurdish federal ambitions.