Turkey to expand scope of Iraq-Syria motions
REUTERS PhotoTurkey’s government has announced that it will expand the scope of motions authorizing the army to conduct cross-border operations into Iraq and Syria, amid the threat posed by extremist jihadists that have begun to affect the country’s national security.
The statement came from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Sept. 23 as he held a brief press conference after a visit to the Health Ministry.
“The threats and risks posed from Iraq and Syria have changed. Therefore the content of the existing motions that will be renewed in October will have to be renewed,” Davutoğlu said. Parliament will debate the motions on Oct. 2, a day after the beginning of the legislative year.
There are currently two valid motions approved by Parliament authorizing the army: One against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq and another against a potential Syrian offensive toward Turkey. Now, the unexpected growth and expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in both Iraq and Syria has changed Ankara’s risk map.
“I hope there will be no need for Turkey to activate these motions. But if necessary, Turkey will not hesitate in doing so,” Davutoğlu also said.
Asked about the U.S.-led coalition’s operations against ISIL targets in Syria, the prime minister preferred not to give a straight answer as to whether Turkey supported the move.
“Operations that do not envisage a lasting peace and stability in the region will only bring about fresh problems,” he said.
Turkey has called on the U.S. to produce a comprehensive strategy that would also help to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Davutoğlu, meanwhile, has said noone should “test” Turkey, in response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after the latter said the “proof would be in the pudding” regarding Ankara’s willingness to join the fight against jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
“No one can give a test to Turkey, as if it has not done what is necessary. We take our own decisions and will do what is necessary if this decision is a must to protect our national interests,” Davutoğlu said in an interview late Sept. 22.
Kerry had stated that the United States was expecting Turkey to step up in the fight against ISIL now that the country had secured the release of 49 hostages that were held by the militants. Davutoğlu said the issue was discussed with U.S. Secretary of State and Defense Minister Chuck Hagel during a recent visit to Ankara.
The prime minister cited some foreign media reports and said they were giving the impression that Turkey was “being tested and had to prove itself.”
“Everybody should know – something that I also told Mr. Kerry when I was the foreign minister – that Turkey does not have to prove anything. Turkey has always displayed that it can take a decisive attitude in line facts that it believes in. They witnessed how Turkey was attentive even at times when [our] allies did not take enough care for some of our sensitiveness,” he said.
No one can associate the issue with the Turkish hostages and say, “Let’s see what Turkey will do,” Davutoğlu said. “It’s us that will make the decision of what we’ll do, and we have not made that decision at the moment,” he added.
If the intention is to launch a joint strategy in the region, “then Turkey is not a country that will be given an exam paper, but rather a country that will be discussed as an equal,” Davutoğlu also said.
“We have our concerns, our national interests and priorities. We can sit down and discuss all these with them,” Davutoğlu said, adding that so far Ankara had always been in such dialogue with U.S. officials.“In this sense, Kerry’s reported remarks are not on a sound ground with regard to his relations with us.”
“As our priority regarding the hostages has been met, now our point is to adopt a perception that will maintain peace and stability in the region. Having the fight against ISIL, against terrorist organizations in general, as a principle, we are right to ask to see the post-struggle [vision] and seek a common ground on which the parameters of this [vision] will be maintained,” he also said.
"[ISIL] should be cleared out, since these groups are a threat to all,” Davutoğlu said, but stressed that if this was achieved in a way that opens space for the Syrian government then similar groups will eventually emerge under different guises.
Elaborating on the Sept. 20 operation to release the Turkish hostages, Davutoğlu said the people used as intermediaries fit into a “grey zone,” such as a scholar of Turkmen origin or an esteemed tribal leader who are both respected by the militant group.
One of the militants who had sympathy for Turkey helped Ankara with information on the hostages, but he was killed by the group when revelations about his provision of information were revealed, the prime minister added.