x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

US will not move Iraq weapons through Turkey

The United States has no intention of pulling out heavy equipment and weapons from Iraq through Turkey, the country's top commander said today.

The United States has no intention of pulling out heavy equipment and weapons from Iraq through Turkey, the country's top commander said today. "I absolutely did not come here to negotiate the withdrawal of heavy equipment and weapons from Iraq across Turkey's territory," Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters here. "Though we certainly rely on Turkey's infrastructure to move some of our equipment in and out of our area of operations, we do not transport weapons through Turkey nor do we intend to in the future," he added.

Turkish officials said yesterday that Washington had asked Ankara for permission to move some of its non-combat technical equipment through Turkish territory after the US combat mission in Iraq formally ended. Discussions were under way between the two Nato allies on the request, they added. US forces ended their combat mission in Iraq on Tuesday, drawing down troop numbers that had surged to almost 170,000 following the 2003 US-led invasion to less than 50,000, prior to a complete withdrawal at the end of 2011.

Admiral Mullen said the United States had moved almost 100,000 troops and over two million pieces of equipment out of Iraq over the course of last year and added that none of the military equipment or troops had passed through Turkey. "The lines of communication and the routes that we have used today are certainly routes that we will use in the future," the admiral said. Admiral Mullen also said that talks were under way in Nato on the possibility of including Turkey in a planned missile defence shield in Europe aimed at countering threats from Iran.

"The membership of Nato believes that having a missile defence architecture is a very important capability that needs to be put in place and evolve over time," he said. "There have been discussions with several members of Nato to include Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania in terms of parts of this...missile defence architecture and whether countries would support installations...Those discussions continue," the admiral said.

Romania has already started talks with the US on the defence shield while Bulgaria has expressed a desire to join it. Turkey disagrees with the US on the approach to Iran's nuclear programme, insisting on a diplomatic solution to the dispute, while Washington favours sanctions. * AFP