The Turkish parliament has extended a mandate authorizing the deployment of the country’s military forces in Iraq and Syria in the lead-up to a planned Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq.
According to Press TV, the vote during the parliament’s emergency session on Saturday comes as Ankara has repeatedly stressed that it would adopt security, political and economic measures against the planned referendum, saying the move will lead to a new crisis in the Middle East.
The semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region is adamant to hold the referendum on September 25 despite regional and international opposition.
Also on Monday, the UN urged Iraq’s Kurdish leaders to scrap the upcoming secession vote, saying it would undermine the ongoing battle in the Arab country against Daesh terrorists.
Turkish troops are currently engaged in large-scale military drills on the country’s border with Iraq. The drill is planned to continue until September 26, one day after the upcoming Kurdish independence vote.
Ankara regularly bombs the mountainous border area between Iraq and Turkey where the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984, is based. Ankara has also deployed troops to the Iraqi soil, triggering a diplomatic crisis with Baghdad, which brought them to the brink of a war at one point.
In August 2016, Turkey began a unilateral military intervention in northern Syria, code-named Operation Euphrates Shield, sending tanks and warplanes across the border. Ankara claimed that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey’s border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces, who were themselves fighting Daesh.
Turkey officially ended its military campaign in northern Syria in March 2017, but did not rule out the possibility of yet another act of military intervention inside Syria, which has been gripped by deadly foreign-sponsored militancy since 2011.
The Turkish military has reinforced its presence in the border with Syria amid perceived threats from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a major component of the US-backed militiamen from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Ankara views the People’s Protection Units as the Syrian branch of the PKK.