Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rebuffed opposition calls for an immediate incursion into northern Iraq to destroy Kurdish militant bases in the Kandil Mountains amid ongoing preparations for a visit to Ankara by Iraq’s foreign minister.
Erdoğan dismissed calls by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to erect the Turkish flag at Kandil late yesterday as “nonsense.” Parliament yesterday extended by one year the government’s mandate to order military action against bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.
“We are doing all that is necessary. Will terror end if we erect a flag there? What kind of nonsense is this?” Erdoğan said to reporters on a flight back from South Africa.
“There are flags all over our country at the moment. Is terror coming to an end?” he asked, urging MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli to put forward proposals on how his own party could help defeat terrorism.
The MHP hit back yesterday, questioning the purpose of the extended mandate for military action that the government requested from Parliament.
“We want the prime minister to use this mandate. Why did we give him this mandate? Why is he annoyed by the idea of erecting the Turkish flag at Kandil?” MHP deputy group chairman Oktay Vural said during a press conference in Parliament while carrying a Turkish flag.
“What dirty calculations, what submissive mindset, is tying the prime minister’s hands when it comes to destroying the Kandil evil?” he said.
While the war of words raged on, diplomatic sources said preparations were under way for a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Hoshyar Zebari in mid-October to discuss measures aimed at curbing the PKK. Zebari’s trip to Ankara is likely to be followed by a visit from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki later in the year for a meeting of the Turkish-Iraqi cooperation council.
Parliament OKs strikes
The MHP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) joined forces with the ruling party late on Oct. 5 to approve a fresh one-year mandate for the government to order military action against the PKK in northern Iraq.
The mandate, extended until Oct. 17, 2012, was approved by a show of hands. Only the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) objected to the move, calling the motion “a declaration of war.”
The opposition’s support however came with a large dose of criticism of the government. The MHP denounced talks between Turkish intelligence officials and the PKK, while the CHP called for a parliamentary initiative to seek a solution to the conflict.
Speaking on behalf of the government, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the PKK was Turkey’s sole target. “The eradication of terror originating from the north of Iraq will contribute to strengthening our relations with Iraq in every field,” he said.
The motion, like previous ones, authorized the government to determine the scale, scope and timing of the operations.