Turkey has formally announced that it will not send troops for the time being to help U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. The announcement followed a telephone conversation late Thursday between Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry says it has reviewed the situation in Iraq, and Foreign Minister Gul told Mr. Powell the Turkish government would reconsider its decision to send troops to Iraq.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman says Secretary Powell thanked Turkey for its offer to send troops, and recognized that Turkey had been doing all it could as an ally and strategic partner in helping to bring democracy and stability to Iraq.
A senior Turkish official described Thursday's conversation as very cordial. The official said Secretary Powell had reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to move against what he called terrorist elements in Iraq, including Turkish Kurd rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, who are based in the north of Iraq.
Analysts say Turkey was forced to reverse its decision to send troops because of unrelenting opposition to Turkish intervention from the Iraqi Interim Governing Council. Iraqi Kurds have been particularly vocal in their opposition to a Turkish troop presence, saying that Turkey's real agenda is to undermine gains made by some four million Iraqi Kurds during 12 years of self-rule.
Analysts also say the main motive behind Turkey's initial decision to send troops to Iraq was to help repair ties with the country's chief ally, the United States. Relations between the two NATO allies were badly shaken by the Turkish parliament's rejection in March of a bill authorizing thousands of U.S. soldiers to use Turkey as a launching pad for its invasion of Iraq. Experts say another reason that Turkey wanted to put troops in Iraq was to have a say in shaping the future of its southern neighbor.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, who took over the rotating presidency of the Interim Governing Council this month, is set to visit Turkey before his brief term expires to help ease tensions created by the troops issue.