ISTANBUL — President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that no ransom had been paid for the release of Turkish hostages held by Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham militants — but he declined to be drawn on whether their release freed Turkey's hand to take a more active stance against the insurgents.
Turkish intelligence agents brought 46 of the hostages seized by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq back to Turkey on Saturday after more than three months in captivity, in what Erdogan described as a covert rescue operation. Three of the 49 total hostages held were local people, not Turks.
"A material negotiation is totally out of the question ... This is a diplomatic success," Erdogan said before leaving for a gathering of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The hostages, including Turkey's consul-general, diplomats' children and special forces soldiers, were seized from the Turkish consulate in Mosul on June 11 during a lightning advance by the Sunni insurgents. Their capture had left Sunni-majority Turkey, a member of the NATO military alliance and a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, hamstrung in its response to the Sunni insurgents, who have carved out a self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq, just over the Turkish border.
Asked if Turkey might now commit more strongly to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, Erdogan gave no direct reply.
"What happens from now on is a separate issue ... We need to decide what kind of attitude to take," he said.
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