Turkish parliament backs troops for Iraq

08 October 2003
The Turkish parliament on 7 October voted in favour - 358 for and 183 against - of sending troops to Iraq to aid the US-led peacekeeping force. The move will allow for an unspecified number of troops, thought to be about 10,000, to be deployed to the country for up to one year. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan said that the move would improve relations with NATO partners, particularly the US, and would give Ankara greater influence in decisions taken in Iraq. However, public opinion in Turkey is broadly against the deployment. The US has said that in exchange for military assistance, its forces will round up Kurdish separatists who fled to Iraq, and provide a loan to Ankara, reportedly worth $8,500 million (MEED 6:10:03).

Officials in Iraq have spoken out against the proposal. Members of the Kurdish ruling parties in northern Iraq, of which Iraqi interim Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari is a member, said that any Turkish presence in the country would complicate the security situation. Zebari, speaking during a visit to London, said that the interim governing council had underlined its rejection of the Turkey's offer, stressing that any final security decisions rested with the council. 'The bottom line of the governing council is that it does not like to see any of Iraq's immediate neighbours taking part in the peacekeeping mission,' he said, citing historic sensitivities as the main reason.

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