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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Regret over Turkish troops' arrest
US military deployment Harbur gate
US military deployments continue across Turkey's border with Iraq
The US and Turkish military have expressed regret over the arrest of Turkish commandos by American troops in northern Iraq.

US troops arrested 24 people - 11 soldiers and 13 civilians - in the northern Iraqi town of Sulaymaniyah on 4 July.

A statement released following a joint investigation into the affair said both sides regretted the incident and the treatment faced by the Turkish soldiers in detention.

"Turkey and the United States have decided to ensure better co-operation and co-ordination in Iraq and have agreed to take all measures required to prevent the repetition of such incidents in the future."

The statement, released by Turkish military headquarters, followed bilateral talks on how the Turkish soldiers were arrested and detained for 60 hours.

But it did not explain the reasons behind the arrests, which Washington said were based on the "reports of disturbing activities" that the soldiers may have been involved in.

However Ankara has denied this.

The arrests triggered what Turkey's chief of general staff, Hilmi Ozkok, described as a "crisis of trust" between Ankara and Washington.

'Ugly incident'

A phone call between the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the US Vice President, Dick Cheney on 4 July is thought to have played a crucial role in the soldiers' release.

Mr Erdogan called the situation "a totally ugly incident" and ordered the immediate closure of Harbur gate - the vital roadway that links Turkey to Iraq.

The Turkish commandos were taken to Baghdad for interrogation by the Americans but were released 60-hours afterwards and returned to north Iraq by helicopter.

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

There were angry scenes in Ankara and Istanbul as public anti-US sentiment spilled onto the streets.

Turkey, which fought a 15-year war against Kurdish separatists of its own, fears that self-ruling Kurds in northern Iraq could fuel new clashes within Turkey.

It previously threatened to increase its military presence in northern Iraq to thwart a possible move by Iraqi Kurds to declare independence, but backed off under US pressure.




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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