Turkey extends mandate for strikes on Kurds in Iraq

AFP , Thursday 10 Oct 2013

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party only opposition group to vote against renewal of mandate targeting Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Turkey's parliament on Thursday extended for one year a mandate that would allow Ankara to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels holed up in neighbouring northern Iraq.

The vote coincides with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's reforms to boost the rights of the country's sizeable Kurdish community and secure an end to the nearly 30-year battle with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

All opposition parties, except the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, gave solid backing to the motion providing the government with another year-long mandate for cross-border operations against PKK hideouts in northern Iraq.

The current mandate expires on 17 October Parliament has extended the mandate every year since it was first approved in 2007.

On 30 September, Erdogan moved to scrap restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language, allowing it to be used in private schools and letting election candidates campaign in Kurdish.

The reforms are aimed at breaking an impasse in the peace process between Turkey and the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

In March the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan declared a ceasefire after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service.

Last month, Kurdish rebels announced a suspension in their planned pull-out of their fighters from Turkish soil, accusing Ankara of not keeping its promises of reform. They called the measures introduced by Erdogan as unsatisfactory.

In return for withdrawing its fighters, the PKK demanded changes such as the right to education in the Kurdish language, changes to the electoral system and a degree of regional autonomy.

The PKK has been fighting for self-rule in the mainly Kurdish southeast and east of Turkey since 1984.

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