Turkey, Iran furious over Kirkuk’s participation in independence referendum

Turkey, Iran furious over Kirkuk’s participation in independence referendum

ANKARA/TEHRAN
Turkey, Iran furious over Kirkuk’s participation in independence referendum

Iran joined warnings issued by Turkey over plans by the local administration of the Iraqi province of Kirkuk to take part in next month’s Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) independence referendum, saying it is “wrong, provocative and unacceptable.”

On Aug. 30, Tehran said “the Kirkuk council’s decision to take part in the Kurdistan region’s referendum is wrong, provocative and unacceptable.”

A statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry described the referendum as “dangerous,” adding that it had been rejected by the Iraqi central government, the United Nations, many countries in the region and beyond.

“[The referendum] does not help recent dialogue in Baghdad to resolve existing issues and will affect Iraq’s national capacity and power in stabilizing that country’s victories over terrorism,” the statement quoted ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi as saying.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran warns against this wrong decision, which is a clear breach of Iraq’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty, stressing again that ... any measure creating new crises in the region and borders of Iraq’s neighbors will be intolerable,” it added. 

The council in Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed region under Baghdad’s control, voted on Aug. 29 to take part in the referendum, a move the Iraqi central government denounced as illegal and unconstitutional. Kirkuk, an oil-rich province made up of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, is under Baghdad’s control but is claimed by the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region. 

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, adopted after the U.S. invasion, stipulates that the administrative statuses of these areas should be determined with referendums by 2007. However, the referendums have still yet to be held due to the ongoing political turmoil in Iraq.

The plan to hold the Sept. 25 referendum has also been criticized by neighboring Turkey, which has a large Kurdish minority population.

President Erdoğan hints at further operation into Syria and Iraq

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted that Turkey would take action in Iraq and Syria for the security of the country.

Turkey is prepared to carry out further operations in Syria and Iraq following last year’s Euphrates Shield Operation, Erdoğan said on Aug. 30, at a reception marking Turkey’s annual “Victory Day” at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. 

“Despite the covert embargos and strikes on our country and our army by the hand of [the Fethullah Terrorist Organization] FETÖ, and the problems with our allies, there is no falling back in our plans, projects and operations. Especially in Syria and Iraq, we will not take a step back on any subject related to future of our nation and our brothers in the region. All options in the region are being taken into consideration,” he added. 

Turkey carried out the Euphrates Shield Operation into Syria between August 2016 and March 2017 in northern Syria, targeting both the Islamic, State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The operation aimed to block ISIL’s access to the Turkish border and hinder the advancement of the PYD’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara regards as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Tension has risen between Ankara and Washington over the inclusion of the YPG in the fight against ISIL in Syria. 

“We see all the plots carried out via terrorist organizations in the region. We do not accept these impositions,” Erdoğan said on Aug. 30. 

He stressed that Turkey is in a vulnerable position as it shares a border with Syria and Iraq, and “has taken all kinds of precautions and is ready.”

“They should know that whatever we did in the Euphrates Shield Operation, we are in ready to carry out the same mission in the coming process,” he added.  

“Everyone should know that we will prevail in this situation,” Erdoğan vowed.

MHP head Bahçeli slams inclusion of Kirkuk in KRG referendum

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli also criticized the participation of Kirkuk in the planned KRG independence referendum, saying it “aims to de-territorialize Turkmens” in the region. 

“The Peshmerga administration insists on the so-called Kurdish referendum that it plans to hold on Sept. 25. And the Kirkuk Provincial Council’s decision on Aug. 29 in favor of having Kirkuk take part [in the referendum] adds to the series of scandals and betrayals,” Bahçeli posted on his official Twitter account on Aug. 31. 

“They are trying to separate Turkmen lands from their sovereign and original owners,” he said. 

“Kirkuk is Turkish. It will not be subjected to assimilationist aims and ethnic cleansing,” the MHP leader added. 

Turkey: Breach of Iraqi constitution 

The Turkish Foreign Ministry had earlier criticized the decision by the Kirkuk local administration to participate in the vote. 

“We recall that the Baghdad Administrative Court ruled on Aug. 17, 2017 that the Kirkuk Provincial Council and the KRG do not have the authority to decide any status on controversial territory,” the Foreign Ministry stated on Aug. 29. 

It added that Ankara had previously expressed concern to the KRG over the planned referendum, noting that the decision for the controversial poll had been boycotted by Turkmen and Arab groups. 

“The persistent pursuit of this dangerous movement will not serve the interests of the KRG or Iraq, nor will it be accepted by the international community, nor will it contribute to the peace and stability of the region in this period of critical developments,” the statement read.