Parliament to hold extraordinary session amid tensions over ‘Kurdistan’ referendum

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The Turkish Parliament will hold an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss a motion to extend a mandate to conduct cross-border operations after the holding of a referendum on independence on Monday by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, a ruling party deputy said on Thursday.

According to the T24 website, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Mustafa Elitaş said an extension of the mandate allowing the government to conduct cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria will be discussed during an extraordinary session in the General Assembly on Saturday at 4 p.m.

The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announced that it would support the AKP government for the extension of the motion.

In October of last year Parliament approved an extension of the mandate of the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct military operations in Iraq and Syria for another year. The mandate was first approved in 2007. In 2014, it was extended to include Syria for possible operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria and other groups.

Despite growing international pressure to call off the referendum, which Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey and Iran, fear will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said they would hold the referendum on Sept. 25 but may discuss the process with Baghdad. Barzani said a separation of Kurdistan from Iraq could take up to two years.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the Turkish Cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara’s options on Friday and put forward their own position on what kind of sanctions Turkey could impose.

Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, has warned that any breakup of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict and is due to prepare a formal response on Friday, three days before the referendum.

On Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing, which military sources said was due to last until Sept. 26, a day after the planned referendum.

Around 100 tanks and military vehicles, backed by rocket launchers and radar, deployed in open farmlands near the frontier, guns pointed south toward the Kurdish mountains.

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