Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. AP file photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday that the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum is “a matter of national security” for Turkey and that Ankara will take necessary measures in this regard.
The Kurdistan Region’s planned independence referendum on September is “a matter of national security” to Turkey and that no one should cast doubt that Ankara “will take all necessary steps on this matter,” said Yildirim.
In the lead-up to the September 25 referendum, pressures are mounting on the Kurdish leadership to postpone the process or cancel it.
Turkey and Iran who each have a significant Kurdish population in their countries have opposed the Kurdish referendum, with Ankara saying that they will officially announce their stance on September 22 during a meeting of its National Security Council, just 3 days before the vote. Both countries have asked Erbil to call off the vote.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that Ankara would not allow Iraq’s territorial integrity to be threatened.
“With regard to our neighbors, we want to have the best relations. We don’t want for any problem to occur between us and our neighbors,” Kurdish President Masoud Barzani told a rally in the province of Duhok on Saturday evening
“It has been 25 years that we have proved that we are a factor for peace, prosperity, and coexistence. We are not a threat to anyone,” the Kurdish president continued.
“But one thing that is surprising to me is: I wish I knew since when have you become so worried about the territorial integrity of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq, and the constitution of Iraq?" Barzani asked rhetorically. "This is important to me since these days these [things] have become important to our neighbors."
Yildirm said also over the weekend that his country has hinted at plans to impose sanctions on the Kurdistan Region if it proceeds with the independence referendum on September 25, the prime minister has stated.
“We don’t want to impose sanctions. But if we arrive at that point, there are steps that have already been planned that Turkey can take,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Ankara on Friday, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Yildirim said he was making a “friendly appeal” to Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani to cancel the planned vote, “while there is still time.”
He did not detail what possible sanctions were being considered.
Good relations with Turkey are key to the Kurdistan Region’s economy. Kurdistan exports its oil through Turkey’s Ceyhan port. Turkey also buys oil and natural gas from Kurdistan.
In the first half of 2017, $5 billion worth of trade passed between Turkey and Kurdistan, a 20 percent increase over the same period the year before.
The Kurdistan Region parliament voted on Friday evening to hold the referendum as planned on September 25. Earlier in the day, President Barzani had said the vote would go ahead because no viable alternative had been presented, implying a rejection of a proposal from the US, UK, and UN to postpone the vote.