October 7, 2009
Turkey extends mandate to fight PKK beyond borders
The Turkish Parliament has extended a mandate, which allows the military to launch cross-border operations against Kurdish separatist rebels in northern Iraq.
The one-year extension of the mandate was approved by a majority on Tuesday. Only 23 of the 475 lawmakers present in the 550-seat chamber voted against the motion.
The current mandate, which has already been extended once, expires on October 17. The mandate was first approved in 2007.
The vote coincides with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pledge to introduce new measures to end the decades-long fighting with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the mandate as a necessary measure to deter PKK militants and bolsters the country’s efforts towards democratic reforms.
“Keeping the option of military force on the table, along with economic, social and cultural measures, will strengthen our deterrence and gives us more room to maneuver,” he told lawmakers.
“Our target is to establish a sustainable environment of security in which we will never again need a mandate such as this,” he concluded.
Since 2007, Turkish fighter jets have attacked PKK positions in northern Iraq, and in February 2008 the army sent land forces across the border to fight the separatist group.
The PKK, considered as a terrorist organization by much of the international community, including Turkey, the European Union and the United States, took up arm against Ankara in 1948 with the aim of establishing an independent Kurdish homeland in southeast of Turkey.
According to the Turkish army, more than 45,000 people have lost their lives in the decades-long conflict.