BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkey approves on cross-border raids in Iraq

A Turkish military helicopter near the Iraqi border where thousands of Turkish troops have launched a ground and air offensive against PKK fighters, October 21 2011.(REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey's parliament on Thursday extended a bill that allows the military to stage operations against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, brushing aside warnings from Iraq against cross-border raids on its territory.

With a show of hands, legislators voted in favor of the measure extending the mandate for another year. It now expires on Oct. 17, 2013.

Turkey has frequently struck targets in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which seeks autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority. The group uses bases in northern Iraq for hit-and-run attacks on Turkey.

But relations between Turkey and Iraq have soured recently and Baghdad has said it won't tolerate military operations on its territory.

Ties have been strained by a Turkish decision to shelter Iraq's former Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who was convicted on charges of running death squads. Turkey also started importing crude oil from northern Iraq under a deal with the Iraqi Kurdish administration, in another move that has angered Iraq.

Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, called the vote in the Turkish parliament "interference in the affairs of neighboring countries."

"The Turkish parliament should discuss and vote on domestic issues that concern Turkish people instead of meddling in the affairs of a sovereign country like Iraq," al-Moussawi said while speaking on a visit to the Czech Republic.

But Turkey argues that armed forces must intervene because neither the government in Baghdad nor Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region in the north are able to prevent the PKK from attacking Turkish targets.

"If only they could have prevented it," Turkey's Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said. "It is our responsibility to protect the country from these terrorists."

Turkish jets last hit suspected PKK targets in northern Iraq in two separate cross-border raids on Sunday, Turkish media said. The Kurdish rebels confirmed the attacks, but said the targets were long-abandoned camps and that there were no casualties.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

 

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