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article imageTurkey to reopen Mosul consulate, 4 years after IS seizure: Erdogan

By AFP     Aug 3, 2018 in World

Turkey is again to open a consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, four years after it was seized and its employees held hostage by Islamic State jihadists, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

Ankara had opened a well-staffed consulate in Mosul, in a sign of Turkey's ambitions in northern Iraq, before the rise of IS there and in neighbouring Syria.

But 46 Turks, including diplomats, their children, special forces officers and other Turkish employees were taken hostage by the jihadists in June 2014. The hostages were freed in September 2014 after a three-month ordeal.

Symbolically, the consulate building was destroyed in a US-led coalition air strike in April 2016 carried out in coordination with Ankara. The city was retaken by Iraqi forces in June 2017.

"The consulates general in Mosul and (the southern Iraqi city) of Basra will resume operations within 100 days," Erdogan told a meeting on government plans after his June 24 election victory.

Turkish officials had previously indicated Ankara was keen to reopen the consulate in Mosul but this was the first mention that a time frame has been evoked.

Turkey evacuated the Basra consulate for security reasons in 2014 a week after IS seized the Mosul mission.

Analysts have said that Turkey is keen to bolster its presence in Mosul, which was once part of the Ottoman Empire and which Ankara still regards as part of its natural regional sphere of influence.

The circumstances in which the Mosul consulate staff were freed remain murky, with reports at the time indicating they had been released in exchange for IS militants held by Turkey.

Erdogan, then premier, insisted no ransom had been paid, saying there were "only diplomatic and political negotiations" and describing the outcome as "a diplomatic victory."

The former Turkish consul general in Mosul who was kidnapped with the other Turks, Ozturk Yilmaz, went into politics and became a deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and is its main spokesman on foreign affairs.

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