Turkey 'determined' to take part in Mosul offensive
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey is determined to be a part of coalition forces in an imminent offensive to retake the oil-rich Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIL.
“We are determined to take our place among the coalition forces for Iraq’s unity and solidarity," Erdogan told a mass inauguration ceremony in the central province of Konya.
“You invited us to [Camp] Bashiqa," he said, referring to the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's demand for a military base in that country.
The president added that coalition forces in Iraq must realize Turkey was "not a tribal state".
Turkey and Iraq have engaged in a war of words about the presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq's Bashiqa.
The president earlier told Abadi to "know his limits," reminding him the Turkish military presence in Iraq was due to a demand made by Baghdad.
Last December, Turkey sent 150 troops and about two dozen combat tanks to Bashiqa, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northeast of Mosul.
The deployment – which was criticized at the time by Baghdad – was aimed at protecting Turkish military personnel tasked with training Iraqi volunteers to fight ISIL.
Turkey says its troops are going to be there to prevent any potential sectarian conflict in and around Mosul after the city is taken from ISIL.
The operation could begin as soon as next week if preparations are completed.
Cooperation with YPG ‘incomprehensible’
Erdogan also slammed cooperation between U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition forces and the YPG – the armed wing of the PYD, which Turkey considers the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group.
“We find it difficult to understand why the coalition forces are acting together with the PYD or the YPG," he said, adding there were 63 countries in the coalition and some of them were Turkey's NATO allies.
“We are their strategic partner. We do not understand them being with a terrorist organization," he said.
Washington has long maintained that the YPG is an effective partner in the fight against ISIL and has heavily relied upon it, under the banner of the "Syrian Democratic Forces."
Probe against FETO
Turkish president also criticized those who believed the probe against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) had a wide coverage and some people had been aggrieved.
“Those who are really aggrieved are relatives of our 241 martyrs and relations of our 2,194 war veterans,” Erdogan said.
He added if the coup attempt had been successful, Turkey would have turned into another Iraq, Syria or Lebanon.
Turkey accuses FETO, which is said to be behind July 15 coup attempt, of organizing the defeated coup as well as a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
He also denied allegations of torture in prisons for July 15-linked suspects. “Whatever conditions other prisoners are staying in at the prisons they are hosted under the same circumstances,” he said.
Turkey will not stop the fight against terrorist organizations such as FETO, the PKK, and ISIL until all of them are cleared, he added.
Erdogan in Trabzon
Erdogan arrived in Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea coast of northeastern Turkey, after his visit to Konya.
Addressing the crowds waiting for him at the airport, Erdogan recalled the discussion on the death penalty in Turkey after the overthrow attempt. He reiterated that he would approve reinstatement of capital punishment if the Turkish parliament backed it.
"What do the westerners say? They say 'Turkey wants death penalty'. But your mother, father, child, brother did not die in there," Erdogan said. "You have to respect the parliaments’ decisions in democracies."
Erdogan told those chanting 'death penalty' at the airport that the duty of political parties is to bring the issue to the agenda of the parliament and allow it to be discussed in the General Assembly.
"If the parliament backs the decision, then I would approve it," Erdogan said. "I would approve it because we cannot pardon the killers of our soldiers who were martyred in Gabar Mountain” -- a mountain 20 km (12 miles) west of the eastern Sirnak province."
"We cannot pardon the killers of our 241 martyrs," Erdogan added.
Erdogan left Konya for Rize, another the Black Sea coastal city, where he also praised its residents for standing against the coup-plotters.