By Meltem Bulur, Sultan Cogalan and Zuhal Demirci
Turkey will take all necessary measures if any threat emerges from a Shia militia taking the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar from Daesh, said Turkey's foreign minister Wednesday, adding that Turkey will not forsake the Turkmens living there.
"Fighting Daesh is necessary, but the process after Daesh must be planned carefully," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference after meeting Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour.
“Ethnic and sectarian balances must be taken into account in Mosul and Tal Afar,” a Daesh-held city 63 kilometers (39 miles) west of Mosul, he added.
Pointing to the threat of Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, Cavusoglu said in addition to the expected attack on Mosul, the militia is also targeting largely Sunni areas.
Cavusoglu underlined that Turkey will "take all precautionary measures allowed by international law" if anything in Tal Afar threatens Turkey’s security.
Cavusoglu also warned that Turkey "will not be insensitive" if the Turkmens of Tal Afar are attacked.
During a meeting with U.S. officials in Ankara on Nov. 4, Turkey made it clear it supports the homecoming of all Sunni and Shia Turkmen to Tal Afar after Mosul’s liberation, but it does not want Hashd al-Shaabi to settle in the district, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.
In Turkey's view, Hashd al-Shaabi moving into Tal Afar would bring sectarian conflict to the city, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking with the media.
Turkish authorities also warned that Tal Afar’s Turkmen would be harmed the most by the presence of Shia militants there.
The Turkmen people have been oppressed ever since Daesh occupied Mosul and Tal Afar in 2014.
Since the occupation began, Tal Afar’s population has plummeted from over a half-million to less than 50,000, mostly consisting of Turkmen.
Sudan’s peace process and support for Turkey
Cavusoglu said that during his meeting with his Sudanese counterpart, recent developments in both Africa and Turkey were discussed.
Cavusoglu praised Sudan’s objective and balanced approach to the peace process in Sudan and said Turkey supports Sudan’s efforts to normalize its ties with the international community.
Ghandour, for his part, said his main reason for visiting Turkey was to show Sudan's support for Turkey in the wake of its defeat of the recent coup attempt.
Asked about the FETO-linked schools closed in Sudan after the July 15 coup attempt, Ghandour said Turkey’s security "constitutes one of Sudan’s red lines".
"Our support for the Turkish government and Turkish people requires us to take these kinds of measures and to close the schools linked to this terror group. We closed these schools and handed them over to our Education Ministry," he added.
Led by the U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) is accused of orchestrating the coup plot as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
The July 15 coup attempt left 241 people martyred and some 2,200 injured in Turkey.