Turkey’s parliament Thursday was considering a motion that would give the government new powers to launch military incursions in Syria and Iraq and allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against ISIS, although the country has yet to define what role it intends to play in the U.S.-led coalition against the militants.
Turkey’s government has been vague about how it will back the coalition or how far it is willing to go in taking on the group, but the motion sets the legal groundwork.
Parliament had in previous years approved operations into Iraq and Syria to attack Kurdish separatists or thwart threats from the Syrian regime but Thursday’s motion expands those powers to address threats from ISIS militants who control a large cross-border swath of Iraq and Syria, in some parts right up to their borders with Turkey.
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. He has also called for military training and equipment for Syria’s opposition fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“In the struggle against terrorism, we are open and ready for every kind of cooperation. However, Turkey is not a country that will allow itself to be used for temporary solutions,” Erdogan said Wednesday.
“An effective struggle against ISIL or other terror organizations will be our priority,” Erdogan said. “The immediate removal of the administration in Damascus, Syria’s territorial unity and the installation of an administration which embraces all will continue to be our priority. ”
The motion cites the continued threat to Turkey from Kurdish rebels who are fighting for autonomy from bases in northern Iraq; the threat from the Syrian regime; as well as the newly emerged threat from ISIS militants and other groups in Syria and Iraq. It also cites a potential threat to a mausoleum in Syria that is considered Turkish territory. The tiny plot of land that is a memorial to Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is guarded by Turkish troops.
The government enjoys a majority in parliament and the motion was expected to pass despite opposition from two parties.