Middle East

Ankara seeks to extend strikes on Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (front), Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ministers and members of parliament, stand before a debate marking the reconvene of the parliament after a summer recess in Ankara on October 1, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN)

ANKARA: The Turkish government asked parliament Monday to renew the mandate for its armed forces to attack Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq for another year, amid an upsurge in clashes between the two sides.

The assembly will prioritize debate on the bill submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), parliamentary sources said, with the current mandate expiring Oct. 17.

Parliament has renewed the mandate annually since 2007, allowing Turkish forces to hit targets on Iraqi soil where rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are believed to be holed up.

The last such operation was in early September when Turkish jets struck suspected PKK ammunition depots and shelters. Ground incursions are rare.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week 144 members of the security forces and 239 rebels had been killed since the start of the year, marking one of the deadliest phases of the confrontation in more than a decade.

In all, about 45,000 people have been killed since the PKK, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

The bill for military operations comes as Ankara continues on the diplomatic front to seek support from Iraq’s Kurdish leaders in its struggle against the Kurdish rebels.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held talks Monday with Massud Barzani, president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, and its former prime minister Barham Salihon counter-terrorism cooperation between the administrations.

Both leaders came to Ankara to attend an AKP congress held Sunday, amid heightened tensions between the central Baghdad government and its Turkish counterpart.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declined the invitation to attend the congress. A flurry of disputes this year have marred Iraq-Turkey relations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2012, on page 9.




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