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Turkey ready to train Iraqi army, says defense chief

Turkey, already training Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces and Syrian opposition forces, offers the same help to Iraqi military

Turkey ready to train Iraqi army, says defense chief


Turkey is ready to train the Iraqi army, Turkish defense minister has told the Iraqi authorities during an official visit to Baghdad.

"We are training peshmerga forces," Ismet Yilmaz said, recalling also the “train-and-equip” program run in cooperation with the United States for Syrian opposition forces.

“We told them [the Iraqi authorities] that the same applications can be applied also to the Iraqi armed forces”, Yilmaz told The Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview Thursday.

Iraq’s stability means stability for Turkey too, Yilmaz said, adding, "If there will be peace in this country [Iraq], Turkey will primarily benefit from this."

The minister said that Turkey supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq.

"This is a difficult period for Iraq," Yilmaz said, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh, controls one-third of the country.

"In this difficult period, we will stand by the Iraqi government and people in the legitimate struggle against terrorism," he said.

Yilmaz said that Turkey had reached an agreement with Iraq to create a joint military technical committee in order to meet the needs of Iraqi army as soon as possible.

He also visited a camp in Iraq’s Kurdish regional government, where Turkish officers train peshmerga forces, the security forces of the autonomous Kurdish region.  

"Turkey is a friend of Iraq and Kurdish regional government," Yilmaz said, adding that Ankara is supporting them and will continue doing so as long as the Iraqi government and the regional government request it.

The Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, in cooperation with local Shiite and Sunni militias, are waiting to initiate a major offensive against Daesh in the coming weeks to take the control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

Yilmaz said that his Iraqi counterpart Halit el-Ubeydi had told him that when the Mosul operation starts, about a million people will be forced to leave their homes and go towards northern Iraq.

"He requested Turkey’s humanitarian aid for those that will be forced to be replaced inside Iraq," Yilmaz said, adding: "We clearly stated that we will offer our help."

Iraq has plunged into a security vacuum since June 2014, when Daesh stormed the northern province of Mosul and declared what it called a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Daesh massacres and the massive displacement of local people led to the creation of an international coalition against the terror group. The U.S.-led coalition is staging airstrikes against Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria since mid-September 2014.

Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias launched a ground offensive against Daesh on Monday to recapture Tikrit city, aiming to approach the rebel group’s stronghold of Mosul. Tikrit, a Sunni-majority city, was the homeland of the deceased Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Speaking about Turkmens, Yilmaz said that Turkey has done more than any other country for them. "Our Turkmen brothers have been affected the most from the Daesh terror organization’s attacks," Yilmaz said.

Yilmaz said that in all meetings regarding national security the Turkish government has taken important decisions on helping Turkmens in Iraq.

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