Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday ruled out Turkish troops taking any part in the operation to retake Iraq’s second city from ISIS.
However, speaking to journalists at a meeting of Justice and Development (AK) Party members in Afyonkarahisar, western Turkey, he said special forces could be used to support local fighters in the Mosul offensive.
“The land operation must be conducted by [the Iraqi] national army instead of different groups. It is out of the question that Turkey or other countries join in the land operation,” he said.
“There are Peshmerga fighters that Turkey trained, there are Nineveh forces in there. If needed, our special forces can of course join to support the local fighters.”
Turkey has a long-standing training mission based at Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, where soldiers have mentored both Kurdish Peshmerga and Nineveh Guard fighters.
Cavusoglu added that Turkey is “currently supporting the operation through our air force”. He did not elaborate on the role of Turkish air power over Mosul.
His comments were reinforced by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in an interview on state-run broadcaster TRT on Saturday night. “Currently, there is no need for us to actively take part in the grand operation,” he said. “There are air and ground elements inside the coalition forces. Turkey will take part in the air elements.”
He added that no member of the international anti-ISIS coalition was directly involved in the Mosul operation but said the U.S was providing logistic support.
On Tuesday, Yildirim said the coalition had agreed “in principle” that Turkish jets would participate. “They will take part when necessary,” he said. “There is a consensus that they will be a part of the coalition in principle.”
Turning to Syria, where Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August to clear ISIS from the region on Turkey’s southern border, Cavusoglu warned that Turkey would “do what is necessary” if the PKK/PYD did not retreat and continued to attack the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army.
“What happened to the ‘YPG are good, they fight against ISIS’ statements?” Cavusoglu asked in an apparent reference to U.S. support for the PKK/PYD’s armed wing. “Why are they attacking Free Syrian Army and opposition forces? Because their aim is to dominate areas and build their own canton.”