Ankara has warned Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that there will be a “price to pay” for its insistence on holding an independence referendum later this month, calling on the administration in Arbil to think again.
“We would like to stress that the KRG should keep in mind that continued insistence on carrying out this referendum, despite all friendly advice to the contrary, will carry a cost. In that regard, we invite the KRG to act with common sense and to give up its erroneous stance,” read a Foreign Ministry statement released on Sept. 14.
“Turkey wishes for affairs between Baghdad and Arbil to be managed on a constitutional and fair basis. In this sense the resolution of the legitimate demands of the KRG pertaining to the constitutional disputes should be resolved through dialogue,” it added.
The ministry also welcomed the recent Iraqi Parliament vote that rejected the planned referendum for Sept. 25 as unconstitutional.
“Despite the warnings of Turkey and all members of the international community who act with common sense, we are concerned by the KRG leadership’s persistence and its increasingly emotional statements on the referendum,” it said.
Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also said in a press briefing on Sept. 14 that Turkey has good relations with both Baghdad and Arbil but a referendum would have “consequences.”
“We therefore except Arbil to listen to our warning,” he said.
In a statement similar to Ankara’s words, Baghdad said Iraqi Kurdish leaders must be prepared to “face the consequences” if they unilaterally declare independence.
“Those who make such a declaration should bear the responsibility for it. It is easy to declare whatever you want but it is not so easy to realize it,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told Reuters on Sept. 13 on the sidelines of an Arab League summit in Cairo, where the closing statement included a resolution calling the Kurdish referendum plan.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Parliament voted on Sept. 14 to remove the governor of Kirkuk from office following a request from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, according to several lawmakers who attended the vote.
The decision to remove the governor, Najmaddin Kareem, came after Kirkuk - an oil-rich province claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq - decided to take part in the KRG referendum.
Two of Turkey’s three opposition parties have also declared that they are against an independence vote in northern Iraq.
“The government has not been able to display a determined stance against the north Iraqi referendum,” said main oppotion Republican People’s Party (CHP) spokesperson Bülent Tezcan on Sept. 13.
“Protecting the territorial integrity of the Iraq is a must. This referendum is not legitimate and we do not recognize it,” he added.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli had on Aug. 24 suggested that the planned referendum should be deemed a “cause of war” for Turkey if necessary.