Iraqi Kurdish vote not a casus belli: Turkish PM Yıldırım
ANKARAThe planned independence referendum in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq is not a reason to start a war, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said, after Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli claimed that the vote could be a “casus belli.”
“Between who does war break out? Wars occur between states. We don’t accept them as a state,” Yıldırım told reporters on his jet returning from Vietnam to Ankara on Aug. 25.
“If a state challenges us and acts against our sovereign rights, then it’s a cause of war for us. However, there is a regional government that is a part of Iraq. This cannot constitute a casus belli,” he added, referring to the KRG referendum due to be held on Sept. 25.
MHP head Bahçeli had suggested that the vote should be deemed a “cause of war” for Ankara if necessary.
“We must disapprove of [KRG President Masoud] Barzani’s referendum preparations, including in Turkmen towns. It should be known that this potential referendum is a rehearsal for Kurdistan. This referendum is completely against Turkmens and Turkey. It should be deemed a cause of war for Turkey if necessary,” he said at a press briefing on Aug. 24.
When asked about Bahçeli’s remarks, Yıldırım said Turkey’s stance on the issue had been “plain and clear from the very start.”
“We’ve always said this [referendum] would be a wrong step. We say the same thing today. There are enough problems in the region already. The referendum would only create new problems without solving current issues. That’s why this decision must be canceled,” he added.
Noting that Baghdad, Iran, Turkey and the United States are all against the referendum, the prime minister said “the insistence of the Iraqi Kurdish government is meaningless.”
“Iraq’s central government, Iran, Turkey and the U.S. oppose it. European countries are calling it ‘untimely.’ When we take all this into account, there is no reason for the KRG to keep insisting on this subject. In fact, there is no complete unity of opinion between the groups in the region anyway. There are differences,” Yıldırım said.
He also said the referendum would only further complicate the ethnic situation in the region.
“The referendum decision is wrong, from whichever way you look at it. There are Turkmens and Arabs in Kirkuk. If that area is included, things would get even more complicated. A problem similar to the one experienced in Kirkuk in the past as a fait accompli could be experienced afterwards. So [the KRG] should turn back from this path it is on, which will neither benefit the region nor itself,” Yıldırım said.
Asked about a possible military operation in Syria’s Afrin and Idlib by the Turkish Armed Forces, the prime minister stressed that there should be a “legal ground” when entering another country’s territory.
“We are not going to attack anywhere out of nowhere. But if the conditions necessitate it, if the security of life and property [in Turkey] is threatened and if there are any developments that would harm our sovereign rights, then we would retaliate,” Yıldırım said.
“An operation cannot be carried out with shows and drums. There is a tactical preparation and planning process. The conditions must be right. There must be international talks. There should be a legal ground, talks and a legitimate reason to enter another country’s territory,” he added.