Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has called on Iraq and Iran to act responsibly on sectarian issues, saying, “We do not want a new Karbala to take place,” a reference to the Battle of Karbala in which the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad was massacred along with his followers.
“We see this risk and are issuing a warning about it,” said Yıldırım, answering questions about the Mosul operation in neighboring Iraq during a live TV show on Saturday night.
The Battle of Karbala, which took place on Oct. 10, 680 in Karbala, in present-day Iraq, was accepted as marking the beginning of the Shiite and Sunni sectarian division across the Muslim world.
Ankara has been expressing reservations over the participation of Shiite militias in the Mosul operation, warning that this could fuel a sectarian was in a region that is dominated by Sunni Arabs and Turkomans.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan challenged Baghdad on Tuesday over the participation of Shiite militias in the operation, saying Baghdad is the administrator of an army consisting completely of Shiites.
“They say 30,000 Shiite militants are coming. Those Shiites should be prepared for what they will face,” said Erdoğan
Yıldırım also stated that Turkey has been in touch with Iran over the developments in Iraq.
“Regional states should not leave this issue to others,” he said.
Underlining that the Turkish position on the Mosul operation is not expansionist, Yıldırım said: “These areas are still in our Misak-ı Milli (National Pact). We are not pursuing expansionist policies. We are there to solve the issues damaging us.”
Regarding the operation by US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Yıldırım said: “We do not need to be part of the land operation now. Our air forces will be part of the coalition. Turkish jets will participate in the operation if needed.”
Yıldırım confirmed that there is an agreement on the issue.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said during a visit to Turkey on Friday that there is an agreement in principle on Turkey’s role in Mosul in the fight against ISIL.
But an Iraqi official who spoke to BBC on condition of anonymity denied the statement by the US defense secretary, saying that Iraq does not want Turkey’s participation in the operation.
The anonymous Iraqi official said there is no place for Turkey in the liberation of Mosul, adding that their only expectation from Turkey is not violating the sovereignty of Iraq and to stand by it in fight against ISIL.