Parliament on 30 July voted for an extension by five months of a controversial mandate for the use of Turkish bases by an allied force protecting northern Iraqi Kurds as part of Operation Provide Comfort (OPC). The new coalition government sought the extension after an apparent policy reversal by the majority Islamist Welfare Party (Refah).
In debating prior to the vote, Islamist Defence Minister Turhan Tayan claimed important changes had been made to OPC’s terms which addressed Turkey’s grievances and suspicions about US motives for the operation. Established in 1991 after the Gulf war, OPC’s force of 80 combat and support aircraft patrols daily into northern Iraq above the 36th parallel.
In exchange for renewing the mandate, UN sanctions on Turkish trade with Iraq would be lifted to the same level permitted to Jordan, Refah Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan claimed on the day of the debate, according to the semi-official Anatolia news agency. However, Erbakan added this would require a UN decision.
Ankara diplomatic sources also said this concession could only be granted by the UN, although the US might discuss such a proposal. Before the vote, the government came under intense US lobbying and pressure from the military to seek the extension.
Erbakan also said concessions agreed by the members of OPC the US, UK and France included:
intelligence sharing, and supply of electronic surveillance equipment for the border with Iraq a reduction of low-level flights by OPC aircraft to two daily from 40 concessions on the blocked supply by the US of three frigates and Super Cobra helicopters (MEED 28:6:96).
Parliament also voted on 30 July to extend emergency rule in the southeast for another four months. Defending an apparent change in Refah’s opposition to emergency rule, Erbakan said in effect the extension would give the government time to legislate for the withdrawal of the state of emergency step by step