Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani (C) and his wife Nabila (L), cast their vote for the Kurdish independence referendum at a hotel in Erbil on September 25, 2017. Photo: AFP/Ahmed Deeb
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has said that Erbil has never been a threat to Turkey, and will remain to not be so, adding that Ankara should also understand that they have no better friends in the region than the Kurdistan Region.
Speaking at a press conference only minutes after he cast his vote in the historic Kurdish independence referendum in Erbil, something opposed by Turkey, PM Barzani told reporters that Turkey, and others should see the vote for what it is — an expression of the will of the people exclusive for the Iraqi Kurdistan.
“We are not and will not threaten Turkey’s national security, and neither will we intervene in the Turkish affairs, not today, and neither in the future. We want to be a good neighbor,” Barzani said.
PM Barzani said that he wanted to visit Turkey so that he can explain the Kurdish position to Turkish officials, but was denied this chance.
“It has been two months that I have been trying and requesting to visit Turkey so that I will explain that this process of ours is not a threat to Turkey. It is unfortunate that they did not agree to this opportunity to me — or us — to explain it to them up close,” Barzani said adding that other relations with Turkey are continuing such as continued phone calls.
“I want to say on behalf of the people of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Regional Government, to reiterate that Turkey does not have a better friend than the Kurds and the Kurdistan Region in the area. We hope that this relation, for which we worked so hard, not to suffer as the result of [the vote].”
Turkey has said they consider the Kurdish vote as a threat to their national security, and hinted they may impose sanctions against the Kurdish government.
Turkey also has a significant Kurdish population, and is fearful that the vote in the Kurdistan Region will encourage its own Kurds to demand further cultural and national rights.
“The process that we conducted today is a process that is confined to the borders of the Iraqi Kurdistan. We never want this process to be seen as though it is also for other parts, or countries, too,” Barzani said in a reassuring message.
PM Barzani said that all border crossings with Turkey are still open, also confirmed by the Turkish Customs and Trade minister.
“What we did today in Kurdistan is not a threat to Turkey… or to any of our neighbours,” Barzani stressed.
He said that Erbil is thankful for the support they received from Turkey.
PMBarzani said that they decided to hold referendum because of the problems between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments, not because they want to pose a threat to Turkey or Tehran.
He said that they want Turkey “to understand our problems and suffering in Iraq.”