AFP
Last updated: 26 September, 2014

Turkey stance “changed” on anti-IS fight, says Erdogan

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday signalled Turkey would take a more active role in the international coalition against Islamic State (IS) militants following the release of Turkish hostages held by the jihadists.

Ankara has for months frustrated the West with its distinctly low-key role in the campaign against IS jihadists but has insisted its hands were tied by concerns over the fate of the hostages.

“Now the position has changed. What follows will be much different,” Erdogan told reporters after flying back to Istanbul from a trip to the United States where he met US Vice President Joe Biden.

He said that “necessary steps” would be taken by parliament on October 2, without specifying the exact nature of these measures.

Parliament is due to convene on that date to consider extending the scope of two existing mandates allowing the government to take military action in Syria and Iraq.

In a clear indication that Turkey would take a stronger role, Erdogan said Ankara had a responsibility not to be a “bystander” as the US leads the campaign against IS.

“We, as Muslims, should do our best. If the Christian world takes such a step on an issue that hurts the conscience of humanity we will not remain a bystander.”

“Our religion Islam is a religion of peace, brotherhood and unity. Our religion does not allow the killing of innocent people,” he said, acknowledging that the actions of IS were “casting a shadow” on Islam.

Erdogan reiterated his calls for no-fly zones and buffer zones but did not specify how they should be implemented.

The dozens of Turkish hostages, including diplomats and children, were abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq in June.

They were released after a three month ordeal last weekend, reportedly following secret negotiations between Turkey’s secret service and jihadists that resulted in the release of some 50 Islamist militants.

Turkish officials repeatedly said that taking a more active role in the fight against IS while they were held could have endangered the hostages’ lives.