Turkey said it would allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq through Turkish territory and use some of its ports and bases but it would require parliamentary authorization for the passage of military equipment.
"We would evaluate the pull out of troops positively, but just for troops and not for the equipment. The transit of equipment is something else and should not be confused with the passage of troops," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said late Wednesday during an interview with the television channel Kanal 24.
Erdoğan said the transfer of the military equipment would require parliamentary authorization, which would limit the quantity and the type of equipment. The United States is planning to withdraw its forces from Iraq in two years, using Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey. The United States would consider using Turkey’s Taşucu port of Mersin and İncirlik base in Adana. Some of the equipment is to be transferred to Afghanistan where U.S. troops are still fighting against Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
No official request yet
Erdoğan said Washington has made no official request so far. According to diplomats, this issue will be discussed during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Turkey on Saturday.
"We will speak clearly about the quantity and the nature of equipment that would be transported and the time it would take to carry out the process," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said of the upcoming discussions with the Americans late Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama had ordered an end to U.S. combat in Iraq by August 31, 2010. Up to 50,000 U.S. troops are to remain under a new mission until the end of 2011. There are currently some 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Apart from Iraq, Turkish and American diplomats will discuss the ongoing NATO operation in Afghanistan and more contributions from Ankara. Clinton is expected to speak about requests from Turkey but it’s not likely that she will hear concrete commitments from Ankara.