Turkey began military drills near its border with the Kurdistan Region on Monday. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – On Saturday evening, the Turkish parliament approved extending a mandate authorizing deployment of troops in Syria and Iraq. The decision comes just two days before Kurdistan’s referendum on independence.
Turkey believes the referendum will be a threat to its own security.
“It is impossible to avert those threats unless Turkey takes steps to remove those mistakes and threats actively on the field,” said Turkey’s Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“Those risks that threaten our security are still active and there is a need for the authorizations demanded with this mandate,” he added.
Canikli also said that the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) were pursuing a "political formation" along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey began a military operation in Syria in summer 2016 with the stated aim of clearing “terrorists” from its border areas – naming both ISIS and Kurdish groups. Ankara wanted to prevent Kurds from expanding their territory in northern Syria.
Turkey ended the operation this spring, but said further operations were possible.
The motion before the Turkish parliament said the government was seeking an extension of the mandate because breaking the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria will threaten Turkey’s national security, directly referencing Kurdistan’s referendum.
Erkan Akcay, of the National Movement Party (MHP) said, "With this motion we say uncategorically that we’re not joking about suddenly coming at night, or not playing games, and we can afford anything at all for the survival of Turkey.”
He also added, “The pirate referendum which is illegal and unacceptable should be cancelled before it is too late.”
Turkey’s National Security Council met on Friday with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presiding. After their meeting, the council issued a statement saying the referendum is a threat to Turkey’s national security.
“The illegitimacy of the referendum announced by the KRG as on Sept. 25 and its unacceptance was once again specified. It was strongly stressed that this step which directly threatens Turkey’s national security was a grave mistake that threatens Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity as well as peace, security and stability of the region,” the statement read, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Turkish security forces began an unannounced military drill on its borders with the Kurdistan Region on Monday as a show of force.
Turkey is Kurdistan’s number one gate to the outside world with regard to the export of its estimated 550,000 barrels of oil per day to international markets, and Kurdistan is the third biggest market for Turkish goods after Germany and the United Kingdom with billions of dollars in trade exchange.
The foreign ministers for Turkey and Iran — who have their own significant Kurdish populations — met with Iraq’s in New York, after which they said they agreed to take “coordinated measures” against the vote.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on Wednesday that while they believe beyond any doubt that there will not be a military intervention by Kurdistan’s neighbors, he warned that Ankara and Tehran must know that Kurdish “hands are not tied.”
President Masoud Barzani told a crowd on Friday in the capital Erbil that he is not a leader who could bring “shame” on himself by calling off the vote to please foreign capitals. He also said that the decision is in the hands of the Kurdish people, despite the many calls “day and night” from regional and global powers to postpone the vote.
The independence referendum will take place on Monday, September 25.