NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday he saw no role for the alliance in Iraq where Islamic militants are closing in on Baghdad after capturing swathes of territory in the country.
The NATO secretary general demanded the immediate release of Turkish citizens, snatched by Islamic militants who have overrun the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
“Let me stress that I do not see a role for NATO in Iraq but of course we follow the situation closely and we urge all parties involved to stop the violence,” Rasmussen told a news conference in Madrid alongside Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo.
“We urge the hostage takers to release the hostages immediately,” he said, a day after militants seized 49 Turkish citizens from the consulate in Mosul. “Nothing can justify this criminal act.”
Militants are approaching Baghdad after overrunning Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in a spectacular military operation.
Turkey says the jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has taken control of swathes of Iraq, kidnapped 49 of its citizens at the Mosul consulate and took them to another part of the city.
Another 31 Turkish truck drivers kidnapped by ISIL fighters on Tuesday were being held at a power station in Mosul, the foreign ministry told AFP.
“I strongly condemn the violence we have seen in Iraq. I strongly condemn the hostage taking,” said the head of the 28-nation NATO.
“Our thoughts are with the hostages and their families and loved ones.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also called for the hostages’ release, saying those responsible for “terrorist acts” must be held to account.
Turkey has pledged to retaliate if any of its citizens are harmed.