Turkey extends military missions in Syria and Iraq

Turkey’s parliament has extended the military’s mandate to conduct cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq by two more years. Both Damascus and Baghdad have in several occasions condemned Turkey’s incursions into their soil as flagrant violations of their territorial integrity.

Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday ratified a motion extending authorization to launch cross-border anti-terrorist operations in northern Iraq and Syria for two more years, as well as continued participation in a Lebanon peacekeeping mission.

The Justice and Development (AK) Party, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the opposition Good (IYI) Party backed the Iraq and Syria motion. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), however, voted against the motion.

The motion, referred to parliament by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, allows the Turkish military to carry out cross-border operations in northern Iraq and Syria for two more years, from Oct. 30, 2021 until Oct. 30, 2023.

The motion stated that the risks and threats posed by ongoing conflicts near Turkey’s southern land borders “continue to rise.”

Stressing that Turkey places great importance on protecting Iraq’s territorial integrity, national unity, and stability, the motion said: “However, the presence of the (terrorist groups) PKK and Daesh in Iraq poses a direct threat to regional peace, stability, and the security of our country.”

The motion also decried the violent attacks of the terrorist PKK/YPG in Syria, adding that Turkey has taken necessary measures in line with its “legitimate national security interests” to preserve the “peace and stability established in Turkey’s operation areas.”

It also pointed to the situation in Syria’s Idlib province, the country’s last remaining opposition stronghold, saying that the peace and stability established via the Astana process continues to be under threat.

Idlib falls within a de-escalation zone forged under an agreement between Turkey and Russia.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is its Syrian branch.

PKK terrorists often use northern Iraq, just across the Turkish border, to plot attacks in Turkey. Ankara says it uses its rights under international law to pursue these terrorists at their hideouts.

Daesh terrorists have carried out multiple attacks against Turkey, including at least 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks, which killed 315 people and injured hundreds of others.

In response, Turkey launched military and police operations at home and abroad to prevent further attacks.

Since 2016, several Turkish cross-border operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence to return home.

Turkish lawmakers also ratified a separate motion to extend for another year the deployment of troops in Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping force.

The AK Party, CHP, MHP, and IYI Party backed the motion, leaving the HDP as the sole party opposing it.

Under the motion, the term of Turkish soldiers in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, also known as UNIFIL, is extended until Oct. 30, 2022.

The motion has been extended 14 times since it was first approved by parliament in 2006.

UNIFIL was established in 1978, when Israel withdrew from Lebanon. The peacekeeping force is intended to provide security and help the Lebanese government rebuild its authority.

Over 10,000 troops from 46 countries are part of the UNIFIL mission.

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