Statement by Turkey at Security Council Briefing on the Situation Concerning Iraq

Y. Halit Çevik 18.12.2015

Madame President,


We would not have preferred this meeting to take place at a time when the international community is mobilizing all its resources to defeat DAESH.


We can assure you all that Turkey spared no effort to solve this matter bilaterally before it appeared in front of the Security Council.


Inviolability of borders, preservation of territorial integrity and political unity of states are the main principles of Turkey’s foreign policy.


As we are extremely sensitive about our sovereignty and territorial integrity, we treat others the way we want to be treated. These principles apply to Iraq more than any country.


In fact, our sensitivities concerning Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity have in the past even created tensions in our relations with some of our closest allies and partners.


Turkey and Iraq have unbreakable bonds. Historically, geographically and culturally we share a common past and we look forward to our common future.


Iraq needs friends to help it defeat DAESH without delay. Turkey is one of them.


Turkey is currently hosting almost 500.000 Iraqis. All their humanitarian needs are being met by the Turkish Government. We are also continuously dispatching humanitarian assistance to Iraq and to the three camps that we have built in the KRG to host close to 40.000 IDPs.


A sustainable end to the tragedy in Iraq can only be brought by defeating DAESH. The critical step in this regard is to raise the military capability of the Iraqi forces including through military training.


Turkey has been extending military assistance to Iraq since the start of the DAESH occupation of Mosul. This has been taking place at various levels, one being the training camp in Bashika, Mosul. We set up this camp in conjunction with the local authorities and upon the request of the Iraqi Government. In Bashika, members of the Turkish military have been training Iraqi volunteers. This will constitute the core of the Mosul National Guards.


Back in 2014, Iraqi Army did not have the trust of the local population in Anbar or Mosul. And, the Army apparently was very reluctant to fight. This led to a rapid collapse of the defense against DAESH in Mosul in June 2014. We all agreed then, on the formation of the National Guard Units.


It is hard to accept the notion that Turkey’s military training efforts in Iraq have gone unnoticed. We have informed our partners and Iraqi officials at various occasions.


Due to the increasing threats to our military personnel in Bashika, we decided to reinforce the force protection component of our units in the camp.


Madame President,


Unfortunately, this issue was taken out of context and the number of troops that were dispatched was exaggerated.


Taking into consideration the Iraqi sides’ concerns, Turkey immediately took steps to de-escalate the matter.


In this regard;


• We immediately stopped all further reinforcements in Bashika.


• On December 5, our Defense Minister spoke to his Iraqi counterpart and assured him that there will be no further reinforcement in Bashika until concerns of the Iraqi Government are answered.


. On December 6, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sent a letter to his counterpart, Haidar Al Abadi, on the issue and explained the role and functions of the Turkish personnel in Bashika clearly.


• On December 8, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu spoke to his Iraqi counterpart and provided him with a detailed explanation that our military personnel in Bashika were not given any combat role.


• On December 10, the Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry and the Chief of Intelligence visited Baghdad as Special Envoys of Prime Minister Davutoğlu and had extensive talks with Prime Minister Abadi, Foreign Minister Caferi and Defense Minister Ubeydi. In these meetings, our respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq was reconfirmed. Our determination to continue the support that we have been providing to the Iraqi Government in its struggle against DAESH was also reaffirmed.


• On December 11, as a result of the meetings of our envoys and taking into consideration the concerns of the Iraqi Government voiced in these meetings, a statement was issued by the Prime Minister’s office. In that statement we announced Turkey’s readiness to re-arrange the number of our military personnel in Bashika.


• After the release of this statement we immediately started rearranging the number of troops in Bashika. The additional security element there left the camp on December 14.


You will recognize that all these steps to de-escalate the situation and reach a common understanding have been launched by the Turkish side while the Iraqi authorities preferred to express their position through the press.


We are convinced that the measures we employed could have been sufficient to leave this issue behind and re-focus our efforts to fight against DAESH. We also believe that our statements created enough breathing space for Iraqi Government to start a new mechanism to discuss all aspects of our cooperation in the field of security. Unfortunately this has not been the case.


From the outset, we tried to resolve this matter through bilateral channels. Because taking this issue to various international platforms would serve no other purpose than to undermine the solidarity of the international community against DAESH.


Madame President,


The allegations about this issue and attempts to bring it to the international fora, have put our troops in Bashika at risk.


The DAESH attack against our unit on December 16th, testified to Turkey’s concerns about the safety of its troops in Bashika. Unfortunately, two Iraqis had been killed in the attack and four others were wounded. Four members of the Turkish military contingent were also injured.


This attack also justified Turkey’s decision to reinforce its military presence in the camp.


In the immediate aftermath of Iraq’s reaction against our troop movements Minister Çavuşoğlu asked his Iraqi counterpart whether the Iraqi Army was capable of protecting our military personnel against DAESH.


Now, in response to those who questioned Turkey’s intentions and the necessity of dispatching a security force, we would like to pose that question one more time: Will the Iraqi armed forces be able to prevent attacks against our trainers in Bashika after we relocated the security detachment there?


As we were preparing for this meeting, Turkish troops, which the Iraqi Government claims to have violated the sovereignty of the Iraq by their presence in Bashika, were actually defending it against a terrorist organization in retaliation to the attacks it launched. Our units in the camp, destroyed about a dozen artillery positions, command posts, observation posts and around 40 vehicles that were at the disposal of DAESH.


Is this what the Iraqi Government wants us to stop doing and leave?


Madame President,


The whole point of the international campaign to support the Iraqi Government is to help Iraq to build and reform its own defensive capabilities. Ultimately, through these efforts, our collective aim is to empower Iraqi Government to reestablish its legal authority over the whole country.


Turkey has been under attack not only by DEASH but also by the PKK terrorist organization. Its headquarters is based in the Qandil region of Iraq. We have been calling on the Iraqi Government to stop the activities of the PKK. Each time the response we received has been that the Iraqi Government had no control over that part of the country.


If the Iraqi Government claims that it has full sovereignty over all its territory, then it is our right to expect that it prevents the use of Iraqi soil for terrorist attacks against our own territory. However, both DAESH and the PKK continue to pose significant risks to Turkey’s safety and security from areas beyond Iraqi Government’s reach and it is our right to exercise self-defense.


We understand the difficult political environment that the Iraqi Government functions in. However, this should not be an excuse for limiting assistance offered to them to defeat DAESH more quickly.


On the ground, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) numbering 130.000, armed by tanks, artillery, rocket launchers and even unmanned air vehicles. These forces are far stronger then the Iraqi Army and not under effective control of the Iraqi Government.


Turkey has provided more than 2.400 overflight clearances for cargo aircraft carrying military equipment to Iraq. This is only part of the total military assistance that Iraq has received and purchased. Yet, Iraqi Government has not been able to reform and restructure the Iraqi Army or train and equip a mere 5.000 volunteers in Anbar.


This is not a logistical problem. This is a matter of political will. There seems to be a determination in Baghdad, not to allow and support any armed force that is not part of the PMF. It is therefore not surprising at all that closure of the training program in Bashika, is being sought, just like those started by the coalition in Anbar have been so successfully delayed or stalled.


We have worries that the Government of Iraq is in repetition of the mistakes of its predecessor. It is this attitude that puts sovereignty of Iraq at risk.


We said it before, we will say it again, and we will keep repeating until we put an end to all the baseless allegations: Turkey has never had and will never have any interest in violating Iraq’s sovereignty. Nor unlike others, do we have any plans or ambitions over Iraqi territory.


We are sure, this discussion here today is being followed with great interest and satisfaction in places like Raqqah, Mosul and Damascus by those who would like to see the cooperation and cohesion of the International Coalition against DAESH disrupted. In many others, it is being followed by concern and regret. Ankara is one of them. We are certain this is also true for most of the capitals represented around this table.


Let’s put an end to this discussion here today and carry on the work at hand. Let’s defeat DAESH.


Turkey will continue to combat DAESH as a national and global security threat, in cooperation and coordination with all its partners in this fight.


Thank you.