"We have taken a decision in principal to back the international peacekeeping force in south Lebanon," government spokesman Cemil Cicek told a press conference in Ankara following a 5-hour cabinet meeting.
Despite strong public opposition, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), encouraged by the U.S. administration, favors sending Turkish troops to the region.
Most Turks believe that Turkish troops in south Lebanon would only serve to protect the Israelis and that they may be forced into clashes with the Hezbollah. The prospect of defending Israeli interests is particularly unappealing given the recent month-long Israeli attacks on Lebanon which targeted civilians and the country's civilian infrastructure. The Israeli aggression was widely covered in the Turkish media. It is also thought that a 'peacekeeping force' in south Lebanon could serve as a buffer for Israel against Hezbollah rocket attacks in case of U.S. attacks against Iran.
Spokesman Cicek said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has officially initiated the process for sending peacekeepers to south Lebanon. "Turkish soldiers will be in Lebanon to protect the peace," he stated.
Cicek said that the Turkish parliament could convene for an emergency session on September 19 to discuss the troop deployment issue. Barring a back bench revolt, the ruling AKP has a strong majority in parliament to ensure approval of a troop deployment motion.
President Sezer, who generally vetoes the controversial bills of the ruling AKP, has no right to veto any motion on troop deployment.
On Friday President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had voiced clear opposition to any Turkish troop deployment in south Lebanon under current conditions, objecting that U.N. resolution no. 1701 did not foresee a humanitarian role for the soldiers.
Spokesman Cicek, rebuffing Sezer's opposition, said that the AKP government respected the views of the president but did not share these.
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit Turkey in the first week of September to seek a Turkish contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping force for south Lebanon.
In a move to ease public concerns over the mooted troop deployment, Cicek stated that Turkish soldiers would not be engaged in clashes or would not have a role in the disarming of the Hezbollah resistance in south Lebanon.
The controversial troop deployment decision is likely to undermine support for the ruling AKP in Turkey, the supporters of which are generally devout Muslims who have strong sympathy for Lebanon and Palestine.
Source:ZamanGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16