The Turkish government will ask parliament to extend a mandate for military strikes on Kurdish rebel bases in neighbouring Iraq, a report quoted the country's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as saying on Sunday. "We are in favour of another one-year extension," Mr Erdogan said in New York, where he attended the annual UN General Assembly meeting, according to the Anatolia news agency. "We will discuss the motion at the first cabinet meeting and send it immediately to parliament," Mr Erdogan said, without specifying a date.
The current one-year mandate expires on October 17. The motion is likely to be easily approved by parliament, in which Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party holds a comfortable majority, with solid opposition support on the issue. Parliament had already extended the mandate, first approved in 2007, once. The mandate authorises the government to order cross-border military action against hideouts of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, which the rebels use as a launching pad for strikes on Turkish targets.
Using intelligence supplied by the United States, the Turkish army has staged a series of air raids against rebels in the region since December 2007, and in February 2008 it carried out a week-long ground incursion. The government is currently working on a plan of democratic reforms to win over the Kurdish minority and erode popular support for the rebels. Since last year, Turkey has also sought better ties with the Iraqi Kurds, whom it has accused of tolerating and even aiding the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community.
But both Mr Erdogan and the army have dismissed calls from Kurdish activists to stop military operations against the group. The PKK took up arms in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-east in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.
A landmark deal to establish ties between Turkey and Armenia is to be signed in Switzerland, a Turkish official told AFP on Sunday on condition of anonymity. "The signing is planned to take place on October 10 in Zurich," the official said. The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to put their signatures to two protocols, the texts of which had been agreed earlier, he said. Turkey and Armenia, long estranged by a bloody history, announced last month that they had hammered out two protocols that call for the establishment of diplomatic ties and re-opening their border, while also setting a timetable for a series of steps to improve ties.
In order to take effect, the protocols will need the ratification of the Turkish and Armenian parliament. * AFP