Babacn Boasts Turkey’s Role in US Iraq Withdrawal

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was speaking about Turkey’s role in the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq on Monday, stressing that the U.S. has expressed it may need Turkey “in a general sense during the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq.”

The U.S. has not yet made public its plans about the number of soldiers and the route it would use to withdraw its troops from war-torn Iraq, Babacan said, speaking to Turkish TV Station Kanal 24. He added that Washington would inform Turkey about its plans and the government would make appropriate assessmen’s about their requests.

"Iraqi people support the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and they want this to happen soon," he said, adding that Iraq has signaled for Turkey to assist during this process. He also said Turkey would of course consider its own conditions on the matter.

Turkey is among the countries that have entered the radar screen of the new Obama administration in its first months, as it prepares to begin the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and seeks to boost forces in Afghanistan.

While visiting Ankara earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the two allies will consult on the safest, most effective way to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. Turkey has said it is ready to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops.

Turkey has been a supply route for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and relations have improved after hitting a low in 2003 when Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces use its territory as a staging ground for the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Turkey’s southern Incirlik air base has been used for the transfer of U.S. troops and equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan and could be used in the withdrawal of troops crossing at the Iraqi-Turkish border gate of Habur.

President Obama is scheduled to visit Turkey in early April. According to Babacan, the scheduled visit is the result of “the positive impact of Turkey’s influence both in its own region and in the world.”

Afghanistan-Pakistan, developmen’s in the Middle East, Iran, the Caucasus, Balkans, Cyprus, Armenia, as well as Iraq would be on the agenda of the meetings to be held with Obama, the Turkish foreign minister added.

Babacan also told Kanal 24 that the third round of Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan trilateral meetings will be held soon, adding that the summit would focus on security and intelligence. He added that Turkey is bothered by the definition of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single region of terrorism and watches the domestic politics of Pakistan closely.

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