The Turkish Parliament held an extraordinary session on Saturday and approved a motion to extend another one year a mandate to conduct cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq as tensions increase in the region ahead of a referendum on independence for northern Iraq on Monday to be held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
According to the decision made during an extraordinary session in the General Assembly on Saturday, the mandate, which authorizes the government to deploy the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct military operations in Iraq and Syria, was extended for another year.
Opposition parties the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also supported the motion of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In October of last year Parliament approved an extension for the mandate until Oct. 30, 2017. 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, were deployed in open farmlands near the frontier, with guns pointed south toward the Kurdish mountains.