ANKARA: U.S. Says It May Need Turkey During Withdrawal From Iraq – F

U.S. SAYS IT MAY NEED TURKEY DURING WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ – FM BABACAN

Hurriyet
March 16 2009
Turkey

The United States told Turkey that it might need the country in a
general sense during the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, Foreign
Minister Ali Babacan said on Monday.

The U.S. has not yet made plans about the number of soldiers and the
route it would withdraw the troops, Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan
told broadcaster Kanal 24.

Babacan said the United States would inform Turkey about its plans
and the government would make assessments about their requests.

"Iraqi people support the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and they want
this to happen soon," he said and added 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 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.

OBAMA VISIT

The scheduled visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Turkey in April
was a result of the positive impact of Turkey’s influence both in
its own region and in the world, Babacan also told the during the
interview.

Afghanistan-Pakistan, developments 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.

Turkey is bothered by the definition of Afghanistan and Pakistan as
a single region of terrorism and watches the domestic politics of
Pakistan closely, he said.

Turkey, which aimed at boosting trust and cooperation between the
neighbors, organized two summits between Afghanistan and Pakistan
last year.

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