Turkey extends army mandate for Iraq, Syria day before Kurdish vote



ISTANBUL, Ergin Hava (dpa)– The Turkish parliament on Saturday approved an extension of military operations in Syria and Iraq, a day before Iraqi Kurdistan was set to go ahead with an independence referendum that has angered Turkey and other regional powers.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) dominates parliament and has repeatedly prolonged the 2014 military mandate in the two war-torn countries.



Ankara used the mandate to target both Islamic State and Kurdish militants in northern Syria and northern Iraq. In August last year, the Turkish military invaded parts of northern Syria, seizing villages along the border from Islamic State and Kurdish militants.
Turkey says it controls 900 square kilometers of Syrian territory.
The autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq's north vowed to go ahead with a referendum on independence on Sunday despite opposition from neighbours and international players.
Turkey, home to a large Kurdish minority group, has warned it may impose sanctions on Kurdistan over the plebiscite.
Turkey's National Security Council on Friday said that, should the referendum happen, "all options" would be on the table, without giving details.
Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli opened the parliamentary session on Saturday with a speech focused on the Iraqi Kurdish vote, saying that Turkey will not recognize the referendum.
The referendum would "throw the whole region into an irreversible fire," Canikli added.
Canikli's remarks led to heated debates with members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which suggests that Kurds in Iraq have a right to establish their own independent state.
The Iraqi chief of staff, General Othman al-Ghanmi, met his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Saturday in Ankara, where they discussed the Kurdish vote and the fight against Islamic State, the Turkish side said in a statement.
Over the past week, Turkish jets have carried out multiple strikes on locations linked to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.
Separately on Monday, the Turkish military launched a drill at the Iraqi border. Broadcaster NTV showed footage of Turkish tanks and infantry still engaged in extended drills early Saturday.
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Sunday, September 24th 2017
Ergin Hava
           


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