ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s military has requested an extension of the mandate to launch army operations against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, Turkish broadcasters reported on Friday.
The request coincides with a Turkish government bid to boost the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
The mandate expires in October and recent Turkish media reports said there was concern in Ankara that extending the mandate may harm the reform process.
Turkey’s parliament first approved the mandate in 2007 as the military stepped up an offensive against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla bases in northern Iraq, from where rebels launch attacks on security forces in southeast Turkey.
Those attacks have strained Iraq’s relations with Turkey, which in the past has accused Baghdad of failing to do enough to halt PKK activities in northern Iraq. However recent diplomatic efforts have yielded an improvement in ties.
This year there has been a marked decline in the frequency of clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK, which took up arms against the state in 1984 with the aim of creating an independent state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey.
Broadcaster CNN Turk said a military spokesman told a weekly media briefing the extension request had been sent to the prime minister’s office on September 14. The spokesman’s comments could not immediately be confirmed.
NATO-member Turkey blames the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU, for the deaths of more than 40,000 people in the 25-year-old conflict.
Writing by Daren Butler