Turkish, US, Iraqi military officials discuss security challenges

Turkey is part of EUCOM, and has long provided its southern Incirlik base for anti-Daesh airstrikes by the US-led coalition. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 December 2017
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Turkish, US, Iraqi military officials discuss security challenges

ANKARA: Senior Turkish, Iraqi and US military officials met in Ankara on Thursday to discuss regional developments and security challenges.
Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, his Iraqi counterpart Othman Al-Ghanimi, Commander of US European Command (EUCOM) Curtis Scaparrotti and Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) Joseph Votel attended the meeting.
The focus was on Iraq, Syria and counterterrorism efforts, said the Turkish General Staff. The meeting comes six days after Baghdad’s announcement of the total defeat of Daesh in Iraq.
The main items on the agenda were the need to prevent the emergence of any terror movements post-Daesh, and recent US promises to stop delivering weapons to the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and take back heavy weapons already delivered.
Turkey is part of EUCOM, and has long provided its southern Incirlik base for anti-Daesh airstrikes by the US-led coalition, thereby assisting CENTCOM. Both Turkey and the US have military bases in Iraq.
“The US wants to see Turkey and Iraq on its side against terrorism,” Nursin Atesoglu Guney, dean of the faculty of economics, administrative and social sciences at Bahcesehir Cyprus University, told Arab News.
“But Turkey’s priority is now the elimination of the YPG, seen by Ankara as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terror group.”
Washington does not want to push Ankara away, and intends to pull Baghdad away from Tehran, she said.
“For this, the US uses counterterrorism cooperation as a general framework for regional cooperation,” she added.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis recently said the US would stop arming the YPG, its main local partner in Syria.
Ankara’s main concern is that weapons supplied to the YPG will end up in PKK hands in Turkey.
Erol Bural, a former military officer and a terrorism expert at the 21st Century Turkey Institute, said Ankara and Washington regularly hold security meetings.
“But the inclusion of Iraq in this framework shows that the meeting essentially focused on Iraq’s security post-Daesh,” Bural told Arab News.
“It’s clear that there’s an effort to continue the US-Turkish relationship through military channels, as the political channels are currently blocked.”
Bural said he does not expect a joint operation against PKK militants in Iraq in the short or medium term, as this requires further coordination and an improvement in relations between Ankara and Baghdad.
“But they can take steps to ease and accelerate airspace usage to conduct airstrikes against PKK hideouts in Iraq,” he said.
“Post-Daesh, the common security concern of the three countries may be the possibility of a Daesh comeback or the emergence of similar radical terror organizations.”
Accordingly, Bural said the three countries should boost border security and intelligence sharing against the PKK and other terror organizations.
“It’s also important to take proactive steps to counter violent extremism in the region,” he added.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

Updated 21 min 5 sec ago
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Russia’s Vladimir Putin praises Erdogan’s ‘great political authority’ after re-election

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call
  • Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office

MOSCOW: Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election triumph in a phone call, after saying the result showed the Turkish leader’s “great political authority” and mass support.
On the call Putin and Erdogan confirmed their interest in “deepening partnership ties between the two countries,” the Kremlin said, singling out priority projects such as the TurkStream gas pipeline and Turkey’s first nuclear power plant being built by Moscow.
In a telegram earlier Monday, Putin had “stressed that the results of the vote fully speak of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s great political authority (and) mass support of the course conducted under his leadership to solve Turkey’s pressing social and economic tasks (and) strengthen the country’s position in the international arena.”
Erdogan — who has dominated Turkey’s politics for the last decade and a half — on Monday won five more years in office with sweeping new powers after a decisive election victory while the opposition raised questions over the conduct of the polls.
Putin stressed his readiness to continue “close joint work” and dialogue with Erdogan, whose ruling party-led alliance also won an overall majority in parliament, the Kremlin said.
“This is certainly in the interests of the peoples of Russia and Turkey,” the Kremlin said in a statement, praising the “partner-like ties” between the two nations.
Putin himself extended his almost two-decade-long rule by winning a fourth Kremlin term in March at a time of high tension with the West.
Putin and Erdogan — who have both led their post-imperial states out of economic crisis but also into a new era of confrontation with the West — have forged an increasingly close alliance in recent months.
In a sign of the importance of the partnership, Putin went to Turkey during his first trip abroad after winning a historic fourth presidential mandate in March 18 polls.
Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in Syria, with Moscow remaining the chief ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime and Ankara backing rebels seeking his ouster.
However, they have worked closely in recent months despite their differences to try to achieve a political solution in Syria.
Ankara-Moscow relations were tested by a severe crisis in November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian war plane over Syria, a confrontation both sides have since tried to put behind them.