Turkey’s measures will not target civilians in northern Iraq, says PM Yıldırım
Turkey will only target those who decided to hold the recent independence referendum in the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and will “not make civilians in the region pay the price for the vote,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said.
“Those who lit the fire of separation made a significant mistake, feeding the problem and not finding a solution. We have a problem with that. We will never make civilian people pay for it. All the measures that we will take will target those who made that mistake,” Yıldırım said on Sept. 29 in the western province of Çanakkale.
Reiterating Ankara’s objection to any move toward independence in the KRG, Yıldırım vowed not to take “any measures against innocent people, which would not suit our reputation, our past or our future.”
A ban on international flights into Iraq’s Kurdish region was being imposed on Sept. 29 after the Baghdad government retaliated against a vote for independence that has drawn opposition from foreign powers.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said the government would help Turkish citizens leave the KRG, as flights to the region will be suspended as of the evening of Sept. 29.
“We will use every means available to help our citizens who want to return to Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu told a news conference with his Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin in Istanbul.
He recalled that the government had issued travel warnings for Turkish citizens and updated these warnings according to the latest developments.
“We may send planes with special permission [to evacuate citizens] in the coming period. The decision [on whether to stay or leave] of our citizens is most important,” Çavuşoğlu added.
Turkey’s measures against the KRG will be in line with the Baghdad government’s requests, he said, adding that Ankara has taken steps on some of these requests and has been evaluating them.
Iraq’s Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in a referendum on Sept. 25, defying neighboring countries that fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region. Almost all foreign airlines suspended flights to Arbil and Sulaymaniyah, obeying a notice from the government in Baghdad, which controls Iraqi air space.