ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey may send troops into Syria and Iraq and allow foreign soldiers to use its bases for cross-border incursions against Islamic State militants, according to a government proposal to be debated by parliament on Thursday.
The advance by Islamic State fighters to within clear sight of Turkish military positions on the Syrian border has piled pressure on Ankara to take a more robust role in the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the insurgents.
The militants are also advancing on a tomb in northern Syria guarded by Turkish soldiers, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Tuesday. The tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman Empire’s founder, was made Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when France ruled Syria.
The government submitted a proposal to parliament late on Tuesday which would broaden existing military powers, in a bid to enable the army to “defeat attacks directed towards our country from all terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria”.
“The cabinet of ministers has decided ... to ask permission from parliament ... to send the Turkish Armed Forces if necessary to foreign countries for cross-border operations and interventions, and to position foreign militaries in Turkey for the same purposes,” the proposal said.
The ruling AK Party’s strong majority means the proposal is likely to be approved.
NATO member Turkey has so far declined to take a frontline role in the U.S.-led military campaign, fearful that it could strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and bolster Kurdish militants allied to Kurds in Turkey who have fought for three decades for greater autonomy.
It also argues that air strikes alone will do little to address long-term instability on its 1,200-km (750-mile) southern frontier.
But its rhetoric has hardened since 46 Turkish hostages, whose captivity at the hands of Islamic State militants made it wary of taking action, were released this month.
The United States has an air base at Incirlik in southwestern Turkey near the Syrian border.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Selin Bucak; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Louise Ireland