Turkey cautions Obama against withdrawal of US troops from Iraq

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New Delhi, Nov.14 : Turkey's Ambassador to India, Levent Bilman, on Friday cautioned United States President-elect Barrack Obama against a hurried withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Speaking on "India and Turkey: Past and Emerging Relations" at the Observer Research Foundation on the eve of the visit of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to India, Ambassador Bilman said a hurried and poorly thought out withdrawals by the US would lead to a power vacuum in the region.

Saying that Turkey is against such a move, Ambassador Bilman said withdrawals would have to be carefully planned and well-scheduled. He said the Iraqi government needed to be strengthened much before taking any such step.

He also warned against such a power vacuum leading to a division of Iraq. "It is not an option. And it should not be," he said.

The Turkish Ambassador said his country would become a victim if Iraq is again thrown into chaos because of power vacuum in the region.

He said all the neighbouring countries of Iraq share this view point, and the Neighbours of Iraq Forum has been successful in convincing big powers and the Permanent Members of the United Nations of the need for a cautious approach. "All the neighbours should act responsibly. They have understood that it is not wise to do it (withdraw from Iraq in a hurried fashion)," he added.

Ambassador Bilman said Turkey and India, both victims of foreign sponsored terrorism, can cooperate in combating terrorism, improving the situation in Afghanistan and improving the energy security of India.

He said Turkey is interested in a Free Trade Agreement with India to improve the bilateral trade relations. Noting that still there are lots of restrictions in India, he wished that India too liberalized its economy as Turkey did.

The Ambassador stressed the importance of Turkey-Israel-India pipeline and said it would help India provide energy security while there are apprehensions on the security of the proposed Iran- Afghanistan- Pakistan- India pipeline. He said, however, Turkey welcomes that pipeline also if it is possible.

Saying that India and Turkey has lots of stake in the stabilization of Afghan situation, the Ambassador said Turkey do not believe that the problem can be solved with only a military perspective. He underlined the need to build infrastructure and alternative sources of income to people instead of opium to improve the situation there, and said India and Turkey can play a big role in this.

The Ambassador said Turkey is fighting the Kurdish insurgents problem with the help of real-time intelligence from the United States. "We have also opened dialogue with Northern Iraq Authorities after they have started taking action against the insurgents based in their region following US pressure," he said.

ANI

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