(By Dr Shahid Qureshi ): –
Turkey’s parliament ratified on Saturday a motion to extend for another year approval for the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq and Syria, two days before the Kurdish Regional Government’s planned referendum on independence from Iraq.
The mandate was first approved by parliament in October 2014 and has been renewed every year, allowing military action in Turkey’s two southern neighbours against Daesh and other groups deemed by Ankara to be terror organisations.
Deputies from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) joined governing Justice and Development (AK) Party deputies in backing the motion, while opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputies voted it down.
Parliament’s decision came after the KRG refused to cancel its plans for an independence referendum, set for September 25.
The motion – submitted by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s AK Party government – had previously allowed the Turkish military to carry out cross-border operations from October 2, 2016, until October 31, 2017.
The motion stated that Turkey places great importance on the protection of Iraq’s territorial integrity, national unity, and stability.
The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in areas controlled by northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous KRG – and in a handful of territories disputed between the KRG and Baghdad – vote whether to declare full independence from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the US, Iran, and the UN have all spoken out against the KRG’s referendum, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilise the region.
Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
The KRG’s leader, Masoud Barzani, has said approval of the referendum would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.