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Turkey may launch ground operation in Iraq if threatened: FM

AFP , Tuesday 25 Oct 2016
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevleut Cavusoglu talks to the media during a joint news conference with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 24, 2016 (Photo: AP)
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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday Ankara could launch a ground operation in Iraq to remove any threats to Turkey that may arise.

"If there is a threat posed to Turkey, we are ready to use all our resources including a ground operation... to eliminate that threat," Cavusoglu said in an interview with Kanal 24 broadcaster.

Cavusoglu referred to Turkey's ambitious offensive in Syria as an example of how Turkey took the threat to its security seriously.

Since August 24, Ankara has supported opposition rebels to clear the Islamic State group (IS) from its border and halt westward advance of the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG.

Turkey views the YPG (People's Protection Units) as a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), waging an insurgency in Turkey's southeast.

The PKK is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union but Washington believes the YPG is the most effective force against IS in Syria.

The PKK has bases in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq which the Turkish military regularly hits with its warplanes.

Cavusoglu said any threat against Turkey in neighbouring regions of Iraq could draw a response.

"If the threat to us increases (there), we can deal with them using our rights under international law and our strength including a ground operation," he added.

Ankara also said this week it had already hit IS positions with its artillery at the Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq. But Baghdad has denied Turkey's participation in military operations to retake the northern city of Mosul.

The foreign minister of Turkey said Monday that as a result of the artillery fire from the camp, 17 "terrorists" had been killed.

An offensive to push IS out of Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, has entered its second week with Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters continuing their advance on the city.

Meanwhile, Turkey's ramped up rhetoric about further military action continued with Cavusoglu warning that if the YPG militia in Manbij, northern Syria, did not leave the city, "we know how to remove them with our own resources".

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