Turkish PM makes ‘last call’ to Barzani to cancel planned independence referendum
AA photoPrime Minister Binali Yıldırım has hinted at possible sanctions on the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) if KRG leader Massoud Barzani goes ahead with the independence referendum, warning him “friendly.”
“There are 10 days left [to the referendum]. Therefore I want to repeat our friendly call to Massoud Barzani: Correct this mistake while there is still time,” Yıldırım told reporters on Sept. 15 in Ankara, adding that the Turkish government regarded the KRG’s decision as a “grave mistake.”
“We don’t want to impose sanctions. But if we arrive at that point, there are steps that have been already planned that Turkey can take,” Yıldırım said.
The prime minister did not detail what sanctions or steps Turkey would take in the event the referendum, scheduled for Sept. 25, is held and the KRG declares independence.
The Habur border gate on the Turkish-Iraqi border is one of the key doors through which the KRG opens to the world, while Turkish private companies dominate the economy in northern Iraq. Turkey is also one of key buyers of oil and natural gas from the KRG, although the Iraqi Constitution does not allow the autonomous region to engage in hydro-carbon trade independently.
No postponement, cancellation
Prime Minister Yıldırım also hinted that the U.N. may engage in the row in the coming days in a bid to solve the problem, while Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Ankara wants the “cancellation” of the referendum, not the “postponement.”
“The referendum should be cancelled,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a press conference alongside French Foreign Minister Jean Yves le Drian late Sept 14.
His statement came after news broke that Barzani signaled that they could postpone the referendum if assurances for independence are given by world powers, after a meeting with representatives from the United States and the United Kingdom.
“We are against and will never take part in negotiations like ‘Let’s postpone the referendum this year to hold it next year,’” Çavuşoğlu said, emphasizing that holding a referendum for independence breaches the Iraqi Constitution.
Turkmen Front leader in Ankara
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu also met with Ershad Salihi, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, to discuss recent developments in Iraq, especially the KRG’s decision to include Kirkuk within the scope of the referendum.
He said they made assessments together on recent developments during the meeting with Salihi.