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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Turkey angry over US arrests
US detainment of Turkish troops caused crisis
Turkey shut its border with Iraq causing a delay in supplies
The arrest of Turkish troops by US forces in northern Iraq has caused a "crisis in relations" between the two Nato armed forces, according to the chief of Turkey's armed forces

The 11 soldiers were returned by helicopter from Baghdad on Monday to their base in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaymaniyah.

The arrests led to a weekend of intense negotiations between Ankara and Washington as the Turkish Government sought the men's release.

Turkey's Chief of General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said the incident had developed into "a major crisis of trust between the Turkish and US armed forces".

General Ozkok said Turkey and the United States would soon launch a joint investigation into what happened.

"I don't think this is US armed forces policy, but I have great difficulty in seeing it as a local event," he told reporters in Ankara.

National outrage

US troops from the 173rd Airborne took the Turkish forces into custody over an alleged plot to harm Iraqi Kurdish civilian officials in the Kurdish-controlled north.

Turkey has denied any such plot.

The US military had been holding a total of 24 people - the 11 soldiers as well as 13 Iraqi office staff members and security guards, Turkish officials said.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
Turkish ministers had strong words with senior US officials by phone
There were angry scenes in Ankara and Istanbul over the weekend as news of the arrests spread and public anti-US sentiment spilled onto the streets.

The Turkish media almost universally condemned the arrests as an insult to Turkish pride and a long alliance with Washington.

Turkey has long had thousands of its soldiers in parts of northern Iraq to fight autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels from Turkey who have set up bases there.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq, it also sent military advisers there to keep watch on Iraqi Kurds. Turkey fears that increasing Kurdish power in northern Iraq could encourage Kurdish rebels to revive fighting in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish south-east.

Turkey and the US fell out over the invasion of Iraq in March when Turkey's parliament refused to allow US troops to attack Iraq from Turkish soil.


SEE ALSO:
US releases Turkish troops
06 Jul 03  |  Middle East
Turks protest soldiers' detentions
06 Jul 03  |  Middle East
Turkish fury at US Iraq 'arrests'
05 Jul 03  |  Middle East



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