Speaking in Antalya on Tuesday, National Defense Minister Fikri Işık stressed that the Mosul operation is highly critical for Turkey. "If not planned well and the demographics of Mosul are not taken into consideration, then it means 1 million people leaving Mosul," he said.
Also commenting on the ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield, Minister Işık told the media that the operation is continuing as planned, while reiterating Turkey's fundamental priorities, which include establishing border security and completely eliminating Daish from the region. Işık further added that preventing the establishment of a canton region for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK-affiliate in Syria, is another important goal for Turkey.
Responding to a question regarding a possible Mosul operation, the National Defense Minister stated, "the coalition forces in the short term are planning two major operations, in Raqqa and Mosul. The Mosul operation is especially critical for Turkey for several reasons, but one of the most important is that if not planned well and the demographic structure of Mosul is not taken into account, then it would mean the migration of 1 million people from Mosul." Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city and Daish's last major urban stronghold in Iraq. It was seized by the group, along with other territory, in June 2014.
Minister Işık continued by noting that if those migrating from Mosul are not kept in Iraq, then the first country that they would come to is Turkey. "If they [the possible refugees from Mosul] are not taken into Turkey, then they would have to be transferred to Europe. Therefore it is extremely important that the PYD/PKK is not included in the operation. Turkey strongly advocates not changing the demographics of the region, while including local and essential forces during the Mosul operation."The possibility of an operation against Daish in Iraq's Mosul, as well as Syria's Raqqa, has increased with recent diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Turkey after Ankara launched Operation Euphrates Shield to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and successfully liberated the Daish-held regions in northern Syria. Ankara has reiterated to Washington its support for liberating Mosul from Daish, in addition to its continuous support of Iraqi Turkmens in areas close to Mosul. However, Turkey also warned the U.S. that political sensitivities must be taken into consideration to avoid possible sectarian struggles between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as threats against Iraq's territorial integrity.
On Sept. 25, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said: "Another sensitive topic is the freeing of Mosul, where Arabs and our Turkmen compatriots live. Whether the U.S. shares our sensitivities or not, I don't know, but their attitude seems positive. It is said that a military operation to free Mosul will be launched on Oct. 19. We'll see what happens."
However, Turkey, which is hosting millions of refugees from Syria and Iraq, needs to be ready for all eventualities, argued Erdoğan, adding that cooperation between Arabs and the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) peshmergas who benefitted from the train-and-equip program was of paramount importance for the Mosul operation.
The operation on Mosul will be conducted by nearly 15,000 Iraqi security and local forces; it will also be supported by the U.S. and Kurdish peshmerga forces for logistical purposes. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition forces are also expected to support the operation from the air.
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