(Updates with comments from opposition leaders)
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sent a presidential mandate to extend military deployment in Iraq and Syria for two more years.
The mandate, if approved by deputies, will allow for the Turkish military to carry out cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria for another two years, counting from Oct. 30, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Wednesday.
Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations into war-torn Syria since 2016, mainly targeting Kurdish forces it considers an existential threat due to their links to an insurgency on its own soil. Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian factions have control of three different areas in the region, the northwestern enclave of Afrin, Idlib and Ra’s al-Ayn.
Turkish forces regularly launch airstrikes into northern Iraq against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed organisation that has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for decades and has bases in northern Iraq. Turkey, the United States and the European Union designate the PKK a terrorist organisation.
Ankara has also occasionally sent Turkish soldiers across the border for brief missions.
Signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the aim of the mandate is “to take all necessary measures within the framework of international law against separatist movements, terrorist threats and all kinds of security risks against Turkey’s national security, to prevent future attacks against the country from all terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria, and against other possible risks such as mass migration, to ensure the maintenance of national security, to protect and safeguard Turkey’s interests effectively in the direction of unilateral separatist attempts that have no legitimacy in the regions adjacent to Turkey’s southern land borders and the developments that may be related to them, and to avoid encountering a difficult situation in the future according to the course of developments,” Anadolu said.
According to the second motion submitted to the parliament, the Presidency asked to extend Turkish military presence in Lebanon for another year as part of the U.N. interim force. The motion effectively extends the term of the Turkish soldiers until Oct. 30, 2022.
Speaking at a joint press event, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said his Republican People’s Party (CHP) was set to discuss the mandates in a central committee meeting, while Meral Akşener, leader of the centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP), said the party had reservations on the wording, but its deputies were going to vote yes, daily Cumhuriyet reported.
Mandates for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Azerbaijan will be voted on in the coming days.
On Tuesday the parliament voted to approve another mandate to extend troop deployments in Africa.