Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson for the Turkish presidency. AP photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A Turkish official close to the president has accused Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki of pushing the Kurds to away from Iraq as the former PM who still wields immense influence in Baghdad pursued a “sectarian approach” in Iraq during his tenure.
In a Daily Sabah column, Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesperson of the Turkish Presidency wrote “the sectarian approach that the two Maliki governments took undermined much of the hope and trust essential to keep Iraqi society together.”
Kalin, in the Turkish publication, went on to lash out at Maliki saying “the Kurds have suffered from this irresponsible and costly politics but so have Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.”
Kalin explains the Kurds’ disagreements with Baghdad are grounded.
“The legitimate concerns of Iraqi Kurds should be addressed within the territorial integrity and political sovereignty of Iraq,” Kalin claimed, believing that separation from Iraq by the Kurds “would set a dangerous precedent in a region already faced with numerous security challenges.”
He describes Ankara as a close ally to Iraqi Kurds, but the independence push could damage the relationship.
“Turkey has stood by Iraqi Kurds politically and economically even in the most adverse circumstances,” said the Turkish diplomat, warning the Kurdish bid of independence would make the Kurdish leadership in Erbil to “alienate themselves from their closest ally Turkey.”
He acknowledges “Kurds of Iraq are entitled to peace, security and prosperity as much as Arabs, Turkmens and other groups that make up the Iraqi society.”
Despite continued opposition to the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum on an international level with Baghdad calling it "unconstitutional" and Turkey strongly rejecting it, the vote took place on September 25 as initially planned.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Ankara would close its border with the Kurdistan Region in response to the vote and said further measures would be taken in the coming days against the Region.
“Entrance-exit will be closed" at the Habur border crossing to the Kurdistan Region, Erdogan said in a speech as he angrily denounced Monday's referendum as "illegitimate," according to AFP.
Turkey is one of the countries strongly opposing the referendum as the country's Security Council issued a warning on Friday, in the lead-up to the vote sating it was "unacceptable."
Iraq flew forces to Turkey on Monday and is participating in Ankara's ongoing border exercises near the Kurdistan Region.
Iran, another neighbor opposing the process, has closed its airspace with the Kurdistan Region at the request of the Iraqi government.