Turkey will send troops to join the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon, despite political and social opposition at home. In a heated session, the turkish Parliament approved the deployment of more than a thousand soldiers; a presence called for by the United Nations, Washington and both Lebanon and Israel. As a muslim country, the Turkish contingent would give legitimacy to the UN’s presence in the region. The Assembly’s decision was strongly contested though with six hours of fierce debate: Also outside parliament people showed their opposition. Tanks and police in riot gear fought back some five thousand protestors who claimed it isn’t Turkey’s war to fight.
75% of Turks feel the troops would be better used to combat Kurdish rebels in Iraq. But the government sees the deployment as a way of consolidating Turkey’s planned membership of the EU. The vote was approved shortly after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in Ankara for talks to beef up the present 2000 strong peacekeeping force to 15000. He told journalists: “This is a truly international effort and I think if we all pool our efforts, with goodwill, reasonableness and determination we can resolve this issue.”
Turkey’s close ties with both Lebanon, Iraq and Israel make it unique. The intention if for Turkish troops to patrol waters off Lebanon and not act as a combat force.