Turkey’s parliament has approved a motion to combat the "Islamic State." The bill proposed new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and allow foreign forces to use Turkish territory.
Turkey's parliament voted 298-98 on Thursday in favor of launching military operations across the border in Syria and Iraq, in a bid to combat the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS).
Despite opposition from two parties, many had viewed passage of the motion as a foregone conclusion. The legislation comes as IS attacks have caused thousands to flee the Syrian town officially known as Ayn al-Arab, but called Kobani by its Kurdish majority population, across the border from Turkey, despite airstrikes by the US-led coalition on the group's positions in Syria since last week and in Iraq since early August. The fighting around Kobani has created one of the single largest exoduses since Syria's civil war began, with more than 130,000 people fleeing into Turkey in the past two weeks, adding to the more than 1 million refugees who have sought refuge there since the Assad regime began cracking down on peaceful protests in 2011.
The legislation also cited threats to a mausoleum inside Syria. Guarded by Turkish troops, the tiny plot of land holds a memorial to Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
Citing concerns over nationals held hostage by IS, Turkish officials had expressed reluctance over the country joining its NATO allies in a coalition against the group. However, that changed after IS released the hostages in September.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the creation of a buffer zone inside Syria as well as a no-fly zone to secure Turkey's borders and stem the flow of refugees fleeing IS. He has also called for military training and equipment for the Syrian opposition fighting the Assad regime.
"In the struggle against terrorism, we are open and ready for every kind of cooperation," Erdogan had said on Wednesday. "However, Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used for temporary solutions." Employing an alternative acronym for IS's former name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Erdogan added: "An effective struggle against ISIL or other terror organizations will be our priority. The immediate removal of the administration in Damascus, Syria's territorial unity and the installation of an administration that embraces all will continue to be our priority. "
Earlier Thursday, a report by the United Nations accused IS of possible crimes against humanity in Iraq. Germany has contributed nonlethal aid to the coalition fighting the group and has now seen citizens of its own taken hostage by apparent IS allies in the Philippines.
mkg, glb/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)