Cross-border mandate extended, operations up to PKK

October 14, 2010, Thursday/ 16:56:00
Turkish Parliament on Tuesday approved a government motion seeking an extension of a mandate from Parliament to conduct military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq. However, implementing cross-border operations is not currently a part of the military’s agenda, but depends on the actions of the PKK.

The motion was approved with “yes” votes from 428 deputies, as opposed to 18 “no” votes. The motion was first brought up to Parliament in 2007 and has since been extended twice, in 2008 and 2009. The current resolution providing the legal basis for operations expires on Oct. 17, 2010. With the motion approved in Parliament, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will be authorized to implement cross-border operations for one more year.

Since the motion was debated and approved in a closed session in accordance with parliamentary bylaws, there was a press ban on reporting what happened during the parliamentary talks. However, the opinions of political parties regarding operations into northern Iraq are well known. During the closed session, the interior minister was expected to give detailed information about the government’s recent counterterrorism efforts. Turkish officials have been conducting intense diplomatic efforts on various fronts to compliment recent visible steps taken by the government, pro-Kurdish opposition figures and key state institutions to bring about a permanent end to the violence between Turkish security forces and the PKK.

The Ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) deputy chairman, Ömer Çelik, spoke on behalf of his party, since Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not attend the session. Tensions ran high during the talks with an exchange of words among deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The MHP also proposed the voting be held as an open vote, instead of a secret round of voting to expose the stance of the AK Party’s deputies from the Kurdish dominated southeast. The proposal was rejected, but the vote revealed that few deputies other than BDP deputies opposed the motion.

The BDP Muş Deputy Sırrı Sakık criticized the vote for being held in a closed session before the voting session. “If there is a solution to the issue without using arms come let’s discuss it together. If you cannot find a solution, other than ones using violence, then poor Anatolian children will be killed by such motions. Kill us first if you have that power,” he said.

Deputies from the AK Party and the MHP directed harsh words against Sakık after his remarks and tensions ran high when a deputy said: “If you prevent solution we would begin killing with you.”

The AK Party deputies called on the BDP to contribute to the peace process and told them so stop acting like spokespeople for the terrorist organization. The government underlined that the approval of the motion did not necessarily mean that the military had to make use of this authority. The PKK’s top leaders are based – with an estimated force of 3,000 to 5,000 militants – in the mountainous terrain that separates Northern Iraq from Iran and Turkey.

Operations up to PKK’s stance

Sources said the government did not plan to hold cross-border operations in northern Iraq, as the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire and the government was going ahead with its democratic initiatives. However, if the PKK backtracks and resort to violence again, the TSK may carry out operations.

Turkey employs a carrot and stick policy when dealing with the Kurdish issue and is determined to combat the PKK’s terror, while offering broader rights to its Kurdish population. “Turkey does not trust the PKK’s unilateral cease-fire. If the terrorist organization continues to use the cease-fire as a political instrument, Turkey will not ignore military operations,” Turkish officials said during official talks last week with the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq. If the PKK continues with the cease-fire, the government plans to take more steps as part of its democratic initiative.

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