Turkey ‘will not allow fait accompli’ in Iraq’s north
ANKARAAnkara has once again stressed that it will not allow any fait accompli in northern Iraq and will take all necessary measures against the independence referendum to be held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sept. 25.
The Turkish Armed Forces expanded the scope of the military exercise it launched on Sept. 18 on the Iraqi border near the Habur Border Gate, in parallel with the government’s harshened rhetoric on the KRG’s bid.
“Turkey will not allow fait accompli in northern Iraq. The world stood up, we stood up [against the referendum]. Arabs and Turkmens rejected it and even Kurds in the region are against it,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said at a ceremony marking the start of the academic year at Bozok University in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat on Sept. 19.
Despite opposition from the world as well as the United Nations, the “sick mentality” in northern Iraq seems to be determined in holding the referendum, Bozdağ said.
“These kinds of steps in the region will ruin regional security and will shatter comfort, peace and stability. Not only the region but all countries in the region will be negatively affected by it and no one can tolerate this,” he added.
Recalling that Turkey has always supported the KRG until now through good neighborly relations amid economic stability, Bozdağ stressed it will continue to do so “if Arbil moves forward with good intentions.”
“But if they go ahead to hold the referendum despite all these warnings, then it will surely be responded to. Our president has declared: ‘We will hold our cabinet meeting right after the National Security Council on Friday [Sept. 22] and will announce our last steps to the world,” he said, vowing that Ankara would “not tolerate” steps that would endanger its security and future.
“We will take all necessary measures to this end and implement them decisively,” he added.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli also told reporters on Sept. 19 that Turkey could never allow the foundation of an “ethnic-based state in northern Iraq.”
“All of our security forces are on duty. We are following the developments very closely. If a decision needs to be taken, it will be taken and implemented with determination,” Canikli stressed.
AKP MP stands for referendum
Despite the government’s strong opposition to the referendum, some dissident voices from within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have expressed support for the KRG’s bid to vote for self-determination.
AKP Diyarbakır MP Galip Ensarioğlu criticized his party over its strong-worded opposition to the KRG’s referendum and inclusion of Kırkuk with the KRG territories, according to daily Habertürk.
“I find these reactions exaggerated,” Ensarioğlu said, claiming it would be better for Turkey if Kirkuk would be under the control of Kurdish administration instead of Arabs.
“Are Arabs in Kırkuk better friends to us then Kurds? Why is Kurdish control of Kirkuk a problem but Arab control of the city is not a problem?” he added.
“Should Barzani, who is defying the United States on this issue, be afraid of us?” said Ensarioğlu, adding that Turkey could continue its oil trade with the KRG in the event that oil-rich Kirkuk becomes a part of KRG territories.
Erdoğan speaks with Iraqi PM
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi late on Sept. 18 discussed the planned referendum in northern Iraq slated for Sept. 25, according to presidential sources.
The sources said the two leaders stressed the importance of Iraq’s territorial integrity and agreed that the “insistence on holding the referendum will only raise tensions in the region.”
They added that the leaders agreed that the Iraqi Supreme Court’s ruling on Sept. 18 to suspend the referendum was “right.”
Erdoğan and al-Abadi also discussed fighting terrorism, especially the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), sources stated.
Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the U.N. have all backed Baghdad in speaking out against the referendum planned for the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq, saying the vote would distract from operations against ISIL and lead to greater instability in the region.
KRG President Massoud Barzani recently stated that a “Yes” vote would not necessarily mean a declaration of independence but would lead to negotiations with Baghdad.