Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AP file photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country opposes any presence of the Iraqi Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia in the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.
“Tal Afar is a very sensitive issue for us. We definitely do not regard it [Hashd involvement] positively in Tal Afar and Sinjar. I already told this to officials clearly,” Erdogan said on Saturday according to Anadolu news.
“Tal Afar is a totally Turkmen city, with half Shia and half Sunni Muslims. We do not judge people by their religious affiliation, we regard them as Muslims,” he added, “But if Hashd al-Shaabi terrorizes the region, our response would be different.”
Erdogan was speaking shortly after the Hashd began their operation against Tal Afar, which sits between Mosul and the Syrian border. The aim of this operation, according to Hashd spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi, is to “cut [ISIS] supplies between Mosul and Raqqa and tighten the siege [on ISIS] in Mosul and liberate Tal Afar.”
The Hashd opposes Turkey’s current military presence in Bashiqa, northwest of Mosul. Turkey opposes any Hashd participation in the Mosul operation fearing it will alter that region’s demographics.
Erdogan has already demanded that Turkey play a role in the Mosul operation, insisting that after it is rescued from ISIS, “only Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and Sunni Kurds should remain there.”