Turkey delays deployment decision

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

ANKARA Turkey continues to delay a decision on sending troops to Iraq.

Turkish officials said the United States has refused to relay details of the conditions of such a troop deployment. They said this has prevented a Turkish government effort to seek parliamentary approval for the decision.

The government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has delayed a parliamentary vote on Turkish deployment in Iraq until October, officials said. They said Erdogan and military chiefs have concluded that Ankara has failed to obtain sufficient information on the terms of the U.S. deployment request to persuade parliament to support the proposal.

Officials said the United States has refused to relay the terms Turkish deployment until parliamentary approval of Ankara's request, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the U.S. Defense Department would enter negotiations with Ankara after the proposal passes parliament.

Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok said a U.S. military delegation will arrive in Ankara over the next week to discuss Turkish troop deployment in Iraq. Ozkok said the visit would be a folo-up to that of Gen. James Jones, supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe and scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

"The issue isn't only military, but also political and economic," Ozkok, referring to the Jones visit, said.

Another factor blocking a vote in parliament has been clarifications of Ankara's request for U.S. policy in northern Iraq. This includes the U.S. vision of the future of northern Iraq, particularly in wake of fighting between Kurds and ethnic Turks around Kirkuk.

At the same time, officials said, Turkey has been laying the groundwork for deployment in Iraq. Turkish officials have been meeting tribal leaders in Iraq and winning support from some of them for the deployment of up to 10,000 Turkish troops in Iraq.

In late August, a delegation from the Al Obeid tribe, regarded as one of the largest in Iraq, held talks in Ankara. The delegation discussed Iraq's future with the Iraqi Turkmen Front, which has an office in Ankara.

For their part, U.S. commanders in northern Iraq have asserted that military coordination between Ankara and the U.S. military has improved. They said coordination increased over the last 10 days in wake of the fighting in Kirkuk.

"We have good coordination with the Turkish Special Forces and are cooperating on ways to prevent any repeat of these incidents," Col. William Mayville, commander of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in Kirkuk, said in a meeting with Turkish reporters in Kirkuk last week.

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