Turkish energy minister Berat Albayrak speaks at a conference. File photo: AA/ Mehmet Acar
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s energy minister has said that Kurdistan's plans to hold a referendum on independence later this year will harm energy cooperation between Ankara and Erbil.
Berat Albayrak told the Turkish Haber news outlet in an interview aired on Thursday that stepping back from the decision to hold the referendum is the right course of action for the Kurdish leadership.
He warned that Erbil will pay a heavy price that will impact everyone in the Kurdistan Region if they proceed with the historic vote.
Kurdistan's President Masoud Barzani has said that they will not postpone the referendum, despite the objection of the Iraqi government and countries such as Turkey, a close ally.
The Kurdistan Region relies on Turkey to export oil through its Ceyhan pipelines to international markets. Erbil and Ankara also do billions of dollars in trade, with Kurdistan considered among the top three markets for Turkish exports, after Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in June that the decision to hold an independence referendum is a “grave mistake” and against Turkey's policy towards its southern neighbour that seeks the preservation of Iraq’s territorial integrity.
Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said at the time that reactions like Turkey’s to the referendum “are very normal” and “there is nothing in it that could cause concern.”