By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that Turkey would not only participate in the ongoing Mosul operation against Daesh in Iraq but would also “be at the table for talks”.
“It is impossible for us to stay out of it because there lies history for us,” he said during an international legal congress in Istanbul. Erdogan told listeners that Ankara was “not responsible for the results of an operation that it does not participate in”.
The much-anticipated Mosul offensive to liberate the city from Daesh began midnight Sunday.
In an address on state television, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said only the Iraqi army and police would be allowed into the city and called on residents to be in solidarity with their security forces.
There had been concerns that Shia Muslim militias fighting against Daesh could be involved in the Mosul operation and cause sectarian tension among the city's Sunni inhabitants.
It was reported earlier that the Iraqi army was gradually advancing toward Mosul, which officials in Baghdad vowed to liberate by the end of the year.
Erdogan also said the “brothers of Turkey” -- Arabs, Turkmens and Kurdish civilians -- were currently in Mosul.
Referring to a Turkish-manned military facility close to Mosul, Erdogan said: “Nobody can expect us to leave Bashiqa.”
He added: “We trained Iraqi soldiers in Bashiqa camp, as well as Peshmerga for them to fight against Daesh. If these fighters had not been there, there would not have been [any] decent troops to fight.”
Erdogan also warned about the possibility of sectarian violence. “The insistence that Turkey be left out of the Mosul operation is because we would prevent a sectarian conflict there,” he said.
“We cannot say ‘yes’ to a Sunni-Shia conflict.”
Meanwhile, Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, said Kurdish Peshmerga forces had taken more than 200 square kilometers (80 square miles) from Daesh as they advanced from the east of Mosul.
Speaking at a news conference near the city, Barzani said the gains were a “turning point in the war against terrorism” and the first time the Peshmerga and Iraqi army had cooperated in the same area.
“We are hopeful that this operation will be successful and that Mosul will be liberated,” he added. “But this does not mean that the terrorist threat is over.”
He also called for the government in Baghdad and Turkey to “reach a consensus” over Turkey’s role in supporting the Mosul operation.
A long-standing training camp at Bashiqa, to the northwest of Mosul, has been training Peshmerga and Sunni Muslim militias in the months leading up to the attack on Iraq’s second city.
In mid-2014, Daesh took Mosul and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.
Recent months have seen the Iraqi army, backed by a 60-nation coalition led by the U.S., retake a large portion of the territory. Nevertheless, the terrorist group remains in control of several parts of the country.