Ankara opposes Kurdish independence bid amid worries of spillover effect

Ankara opposes Kurdish independence bid amid worries of spillover effect

Ankara opposes Kurdish independence bid amid worries of spillover effect

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Turkey has expressed its disapproval of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) bid to hold a referendum for independence, warning about the spillover effect of such a move on regional countries, in reaction to KRG President Massoud Barzani’s announcement for a poll to this end. 

“We consider this as a wrong step. We don’t find it right to bring this issue to the agenda at a moment when Iraq is passing through a fragile period and there are regional security risks in regards to our fight against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and DAESH [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL],” presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said at a press conference conducted on March 31. 

Kalın’s words came following a question about Barzani’s statement on late March 30 that the KRG was planning to hold a referendum on independence as soon as possible. Barzani made this point at a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres in Arbil while calling for the U.N.’s understanding of the KRG’s plans.  

Kalın said Turkey had discussed the issue with the KRG leadership on several occasions in the past and delivered its message that disrupting Iraq’s territorial integrity on ethnic and sectarian lines would not be right. He also warned about the spillover effect of such a move, meaning it could encourage different ethnic and sectarian groups to follow the same line for independence at the cost of further fueling regional disorder. 

In an interview with daily Hürriyet, a spokesperson for the Barzani government, Safeen Dizayee also underlined the plans for independence vote, saying, “We should enter a serious dialogue with Baghdad to reach an amicable solution – an amicable solution for divorce.” 

Raising KRG flag in Kirkuk

Kalın also noted Ankara’s disturbance with the raising of the KRG and Iraqi flags on official buildings in Kirkuk.

“We say this is wrong, too. We have conveyed our messages to the relevant officials. This move could spark new sources of ethnic-based tension not only around Kirkuk but in all of Iraq,” he said. “Our expectations is that officials in Kirkuk will abandon such moves.”

Turkey expressed its disturbance to the KRG through diplomatic means and Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın phoned KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on late March 30 regarding the matter.