ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for all necessary measures to be taken against Kurdish rebels, including a possible incursion into northern Iraq where many are hiding.
The decision follows a series of rebel attacks on security forces which have claimed the lives of 15 soldiers since Sunday. But parliament would still have to authorize any full-scale cross-border operation, a move analysts say is still unlikely.
“To put an end to the terrorist organization operating in the neighboring country (Iraq), the order has been given to take every kind of measure, legal, economic, political, including also a cross-border operation if necessary,” Erdogan’s office said in a statement after a meeting of senior officials.
“Orders have been given to all relevant institutions to continue to wage a decisive struggle against terrorism and the terrorists.”
The latest attacks have increased pressure on Erdogan’s centre-right government to take tough action against the rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), about 3,000 of which are believed to be hiding in mainly Kurdish northern Iraq.
But Ankara remains under heavy pressure from its NATO ally the United States not to send troops into northern Iraq, the only relatively stable part of that country.
Turkey’s parliament would have to authorize any large-scale military operation into Iraq, but troops could pursue rebels over the border in smaller, so-called “hot pursuit” operations without such authorization.
Ankara has long claimed the right to stage such limited operations under international law as legitimate self-defense.
On Sunday, rebels shot dead 13 troops in Sirnak province near the Iraqi border in the worst single attack in 12 years. Two other soldiers were killed in PKK landmine explosions.
Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group began its armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.