Turkey rules out combat mission to to help Iraq retake Mosul

Turkey rules out combat mission to to help Iraq retake Mosul
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara in this Feb 22, 2015 photo.

ANKARA - Turkey will not take part in any military offensive by Iraq to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday.

"We would support Mosul but will not combat directly," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper en route to New York, referring to Turkey's willingess to offer Iraq logistical and other assistance, but not troops.

Davutoglu, however, warned that Turkey would respond if threatened by any attack on its soil.

"If there is any direct threat to Turkey we will respond immediately. We have the potential and strength to do that," he was quoted as saying in the report.

Mosul is a major hub for the IS militants and holds special significance as the place where jihadist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.

The jihadists have controlled Mosul, Iraq's second city, since seizing it in a June 2014 offensive that saw them conquer large parts of the country.

Previous comments by senior US officials suggesting the Iraqi army would stage a counter-attack against the IS group in the northern city as soon as April or May have provoked an angry response in Baghdad.

A senior US envoy said Monday that no timeline should be imposed on Iraqi forces planning an offensive to take back Mosul as the operation will require elaborate preparations.

Turkey, a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has refused to play a greater role in a US-led coalition against IS radicals, and instead called for a broader strategy with the ultimate goal of bringing down the regime in Damascus.

Turkey's contribution to the fight against IS has been limited to allowing the transit of Iraqi peshmerga forces through its soil to fight in the Syrian town of Kobane, which was retaken by Kurdish forces in January.

Turkey is also providing training for the peshmerga forces in Iraq.

In February, Turkey relocated a historic tomb and evacuated the soldiers guarding the monument from Syrian territory after it was surrounded by IS jihadists.

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