FM: Ankara continues efforts for release of 49 hostages

Photo: FM: Ankara continues efforts for release of 49 hostages / Turkey

The government is continuing to work for the release of 49 of its kidnapped citizens, including Mosul Consul-General Ozturk Yilmaz, but has asked for the public not to speculate about the incident lest it place the abductees in harm's way, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

"Bringing a coverage ban was a necessity for their safety. Any speculation or coverage about [this incident] risks their lives. Creating unnecessary expectations or unnecessary pessimism would hurt our friends there," Davutoglu said in an interview with SkyTurk Tv July 8. "These would also hurt circles that we are in intense diplomatic contact with. That's why I attach great importance to the public opinion's sensitivity so far."

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) kidnapped Turkey's consul-general and 48 personnel of the consulate on June 11 after it seized control of Mosul. The Foreign Ministry and the national intelligence are leading efforts for the release of Turkish citizens but the media cannot freely report on the work because of a media blackout on the issue.

During the interview, Davutoglu also shared his views about developments in Iraq especially after ISIL captured nearly one-third of Iraq's soil and declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate amid concerns that Kurds in northern Iraq could announce their independence because of the growing instability in the country. "Iraq needs a new beginning," Davutoglu said, especially after the developments in Mosul.

"This beginning should be a new political project and integration; and it has to have a constitutional aspect in the way to build a new political identity, national identity. It should also produce a new security architecture. It's very difficult to provide security in a country where its military is composed of a single sect," he said.

When asked about the possibility of Kurds declaring independence, Davutoglu said, "We openly emphasize to Iraqi Kurdish leaders that the most correct choice for Kurds is to remain inside Iraq and that the internal integration and national unity of Iraq are very important to us."

Peace process and Iraqi Kurds

Davutoglu stressed the need for cultural and economic integration in the region, particularly with Iraqi Kurds, and said Turkey's "peace process is not only for domestic politics, but also for the foreign politics" of the country.

"Turkey's policy on northern Iraq is also not only for foreign, but also domestic policy," the minister said, noting that nobody would be able to "kick up a row between Turks and Kurds."

The dismemberment of Iraq can be achieved not by dividing it into smaller pieces, but with respect to current borders with regional integration, as Turkey conducts policies in this way, the minister said.
Ankara made efforts for regional integration, but the policy was hampered by the rulers of those countries, along with some foreign powers, according to Davutoglu.

The minister also accused Baghdad of following sectarian policies, noting that the wages of the Iraqi Kurdish regional administration had not been paid for months. The governors of Mosul and their people were isolated by Baghdad and those policies paved the way for extremism, the minister stated.

"Keeping Iraq united is the responsibility primarily of Baghdad," the minister said. "Iraq is in need of a new start with a new project of integration."

Davutoglu criticizes Ihsanoglu over Palestine remarks

Davutoglu also criticized joint presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu for his remarks declaring impartiality on the Palestinian cause, and underlined how it was impossible for Turkey to assume an impartial stance when the issue is Palestine-Israel, calling Ihsanoglu's move "unfortunate."

If anyone says one would be impartial, that would mean taking the side of "the cruel," the minister said, stressing that failing to be partial would be in the interest of certain circles - an indirect reference to Israel.

In the case of Palestine, Turkey would never be neutral, Davutoglu said, underlining that the Palestinian cause matters more to Turkey than many other players.

"Turkey's politicians and president cannot be alienated to the Palestine question," he said.

Impartiality can only be possible when speaking of keeping an equal distance between different Palestinian factions such as al-Fatah and Hamas for the sake of the Palestinian cause, he said.

Citing a recent phone conversation with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal over Israeli raids, Davutoglu said Turkey urged the Hamas leader to work for unity among Palestinians, while Mashaal asked Turkey to raise international awareness on Palestinians' concerns and provide more humanitarian aid.

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