Minister: Turk Peacekeepers to Go to Afghanistan ‘When the Time is Ripe’
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem reiterated on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to send peacekeepers to Afghanistan, but said that conditions in the war-torn country were not ready for the mission.
"We have political determination and our military has the same determination" about sending peacekeepers, Cem said in a televised interview.
However, Cem said: "Our people will not be going there to a picnic. There is a war going on over there and all measures should be taken, all necessary conditions should be provided."
"When the time is ripe, when peace comes, when the (appropriate) environment is established our soldiers will go," the minister said.
Asked about media reports that Turkey was tipped to take over the command of a peacekeeping mission in Kabul, Cem said that "this might be possible."
He declined to say how many soldiers Turkey could send.
Media reports said last week that Turkey, the only Muslim nation in NATO, had ordered a military unit of some 3,000 soldiers to start preparations for a possible peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.
Officials have not yet decided whether the whole unit or only a part would be dispatched, according to the reports.
Prior to the sweeping advance last week by forces opposed to the hardline Taliban regime, Ankara had said it would send about 90 elite soldiers to Afghanistan to help in training opposition soldiers and carrying out humanitarian missions.
Cem warned that the retreat of the Taliban should not be a source of early optimism in the US-led international campaign against the Islamic militia, which harbors suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
"Many people think that things have been put on track in Afghanistan. One should not be that hasty. The issue is not over yet and many problems are awaiting all of us in Afghanistan," Cem said.
He added that the formation of a broad-based post-Taliban government in Afghanistan with the participation of all ethnic group "will not be easy."
Ankara is striving to guarantee that no group is excluded from the future administration of the country, he said -- ANKARA (AFP)