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Turkish President Erdogan: Will take part in Mosul offensive against IS

Turkey is worried over the possible involvement of Iraqi Shiite and anti-Ankara Kurdish militia in the offensive. Baghdad dislikes the presence of a contingent of Turkish troops in Bashiqa, north of Mosul. Photograph: (Getty)

WION Istanbul, Turkey Oct 17, 2016, 04.16 PM (IST)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said it was not possible for Ankara to stay on the sidelines of the US-backed Iraqi offensive against Islamic State in Mosul city.

"We will be in the operation and we will be at the table," Erdogan said in a televised speech, AFP reported. "Our brothers are there and our relatives are there. It is out of the question that we are not involved."

The Islamic State has held Mosul city since June 2014. The offensive to retake Iraq's second city has been hindered by a disagreement between Ankara and Baghdad over planning.

Turkey is worried over the possible involvement of Iraqi Shiite and anti-Ankara Kurdish militia in the offensive. Baghdad dislikes the presence of a contingent of Turkish troops in Bashiqa, north of Mosul. But Erdogan has clearly said that the troops will stay in Bashiqa.

"No-one should expect us to leave Bashiqa. We are there and have made all kinds of operations against Daesh (IS)."

Erdogan warned Turkey last week that if their concerns were not alleviated, they would consider a plan "B" or "C".

Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said a diplomatic delegation led by foreign ministry undersecretary Umit Yalcin was on their way to the Iraqi capital for talks. He, however, warned of the dangers of a migrant influx. With some three million Syrians and Iraqis already in Turkey, the operation could go wrong.

"If Mosul goes wrong, if people are forced to flee, where will they go? Presumably, they won't go to Washington. They will flee to Turkey," he said during a press conference in Ankara. "That's why we say the Mosul operation must be done properly."

Kurtulmus reaffirmed Turkey's insistence that Mosul must retain its identity as a Sunni Arab majority city once IS is ousted, AFP reported.

"Changing the sectarian demographic balance of Mosul will risk leading to serious problems," he said, saying powers needed to make sure the operation does not turn into a sectarian conflict.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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