Turkey’s parliament approved a motion Thursday authorising the government to launch military action against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in Syria and Iraq that would also allow US-led coalition forces to use Turkish territory.
The measure includes a year-long mandate and provides a legal framework for the presence of foreign forces on Turkish soil but does not commit Turkey to deploying troops.
In the 550-seat-chamber, 298 deputies voted to approve the use of the Turkish armed forces in the fight against the Islamists.
The decision comes as the Islamic State group continues its offensive on the northern Syrian town of Ain al-Arab – known as Kobane by the Kurds – which lies right across the border from Turkey, despite airstrikes on the Islamists' positions around the town.
The fighting around Kobane has created one of the single largest exoduses in Syria’s civil war, with more than 160,000 people fleeing into Turkey in the last two weeks, adding to the 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge there since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.
The advance of Islamic State jihadists to within sight of the Turkish army on the border with Syria has piled pressure on Ankara to play a greater role in the US-led international coalition that is already carrying out airstrikes against the Islamists in both Iraq and Syria.
“We will fight effectively against both [the Islamic State group] and all other terrorist organisations within the region; this will always be our priority,” Erdogan said in a speech at the opening of parliament on Wednesday.
But Erdogan also warned that airstrikes could only be one part of a broader political solution to the jihadist insurgency. “Tons of air bombs will only delay the threat and danger,” he said.
Turkey, a member of NATO, shares a 1,200-km (750-mile) border with Iraq and Syria, and stray mortars from both conflicts have repeatedly hit Turkish territory. Ankara deployed tanks and armoured vehicles on the Syrian border this week as fighting intensified.
But Turkey also fears that the battle against Islamic State militants could strengthen the jihadists' enemies – namely President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Kurdish fighters in Iraq who have links to Turkish Kurds, which have fought Ankara for greater autonomy for three decades.
Erdogan on Wednesday said that it was also a Turkish "priority" to "remove the Syrian regime".
He also warned against certain groups "taking advantage" of the regional unrest to pursue their own ends.
“We are open and ready for any cooperation in the fight against terrorism. However, it should be understood by everybody that Turkey is not a country in pursuit of temporary solutions, nor will Turkey allow others to take advantage of it.”
Turkish officials have long expressed frustration over what they see as the West’s failures to heed their warnings that Assad’s continued grip on power and the sectarian policies of former Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki were threatening regional stability and sowing the seeds of Sunni radicalisation.
Meanwhile, Turkey's decision to back certain Islamist groups during the Arab Spring protests – including the now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt – has isolated Ankara and put it at odds with other regional powers, including the current military leadership in Cairo and the Gulf Arab states.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-10-02