Turkey’s parliament passed a bill extending permission, as it has done several times since 2007, for the Turkish military to mount cross-border operations against members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq during the coming year.
Turkish air and artillery operations against suspected PKK members in the Kandil Mountains have intensified since August, straining relations with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.
The strikes were ordered, after a gap of more than a year, in retaliation for an increase in PKK attacks on security forces inside Turkey.
The opposition supported the government motion, but it was rejected by Kurdish lawmakers who won 36 seats in a June election.
Turkey has launched air and ground operations across the border several times in the past. The last incursion was in 2008, when it sent in 10,000 troops backed by air power.
Iraq says Turkey still has 1,300 troops in Iraqi territory manning small observation posts set up in the 1990s with Baghdad’s permission.
More than 40,000 people have been killed during the conflict that began in the 1980s.
The renewed violence is another setback for a government initiative in recent years to boost the rights of minority Kurds who account for up to 15 million of Turkey’s 74 million population.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government submitted the motion to the Parliament Speaker’s Office last week in the wake of escalating acts of terrorism by the PKK, which have claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, policemen and civilians in recent months.
Terrorist attacks and open threats — which target the peace and security of the Turkish people as well as the national unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, and which stem from terrorist PKK elements based in northern Iraq — are continuing, the government said in the motion sent to the legislature.
Before the voting began in Parliament, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu paid a visit to Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Although reports said Davutoğlu’s visit was to discuss the cross-border motion, the foreign minister, who spoke to reporters at the end of the meeting, denied these reports and said his visit was to inform the main opposition party about a number of foreign policy issues.
While the AK Party, the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were expected to vote in favor of the motion, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) announced that it would vote against it.
Speaking at a news conference in Parliament before the start of the voting session, BDP parliamentary group deputy chairman Hasip Kaplan announced that the BDP would say “no” to the cross-border motion.
“As the BDP bloc, we unanimously say no to the war motion. Some of our deputies will make a symbolic appearance in Parliament today, and they will vote against the motion,” Kaplan said.
He also said the Kurdish problem, which the BDP sees as Turkey’s most important problem, is not a problem of security or terrorism, but a problem that has social, cultural and historical dimensions. “The solution to this problem should be found in Parliament through peaceful and democratic means,” he said, adding that Parliament should not debate a motion to make war its primary duty, but should work toward finding a peaceful solution.
The cross-border operations motion was first brought to Parliament in 2007 and has since been extended three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The current resolution providing the legal basis for operations expires on Oct. 17, and with the motion currently sent to Parliament the government is seeking permission for cross-border operations for another year.
05 October 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH WIRES,