ATHENS: Turkey held out the option of deploying more troops to northern Iraq on Saturday, if Kurdish fighters failed to relinquish control of two key cities in the region.

Ankara announced that troops along the border with Iraq were poised to go in after being alarmed by jubilant Kurdish peshmerga pouring into the oil-rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.

After an extraordinary meeting of Turkey’s top generals, intelligence and political elite, the foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, said: “In light of new developments we’ve reviewed the readiness of our troops both in northern Iraq and along the border, and reinforcement plans. If needed, we have all kinds of plans, but for now we are not taking action. Our sensitivities are clear. Any step back is out of the question.”

Turkey, with Nato’s second largest army, has an estimated 70,000 soldiers, equipped with tanks and other heavy armour, along the border with Iraq. About 4,000 Turkish troops are already in northern Iraq, ostensibly to protect the Turkomans, the area’s ethnic Turkish population.

Turkish intervention is not viewed lightly by the US. Kurds say they loathe the Turks more than Saddam and have vowed to resist an incursion. Washington fears a further Turkish intervention would ignite a “war within a war”.

On Friday, paratroopers from the US 173rd Airborne Brigade were deployed to reassure Ankara that the Kurdish irregulars were not only under American control but in the process of withdrawing from the cities. The oilfields of Kirkuk and Mosul provide about 40 per cent of Iraq’s oil output.

Turkey sees Kurdish control of either city as the first step on the way to Iraqi Kurds claiming independence. It fears that with the oil resources secured, Kurds would possess the economic power to back their dream of gaining their own state, as well as stirring secessionist sentiments among Turkey’s 12 million Kurds.

Mr Gul also expressed concern for Kirkuk’s Turkomans on Friday. He said reports of the Turkoman community’s title deed and registry offices being looted raised suspicions that the Kurds were determined to erase them from the city.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.

Opinion

Editorial

Security concerns
23 Jul, 2024

Security concerns

All stakeholders want what is best for the country and its people; their differing approaches shouldn’t be viewed with such suspicion all the time.
Frankfurt vandalism
23 Jul, 2024

Frankfurt vandalism

THE state needs to seek serious answers from the German authorities regarding the July 20 mob attack targeting...
Stressed cotton economy
23 Jul, 2024

Stressed cotton economy

DECREASING cotton production should be a worry for the government because of its socioeconomic implications. Early...
Population calamity
Updated 22 Jul, 2024

Population calamity

Pakistan can also control its growth rate by following the examples of its peers and implementing functional family planning programmes and campaigns.
Blow to occupation
22 Jul, 2024

Blow to occupation

THE International Court of Justice has delivered a legal blow to the decades-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian...
Seeking Priya Kumari
22 Jul, 2024

Seeking Priya Kumari

PRIYA Kumari — the minor girl who vanished on Ashura in 2021 while serving water at a sabeel in Sukkur district ...