DAMASCUS, SYRIA (6:30 PM) – Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the Iraqi Kurdish separatist movement against any action that would risk a break-up of the Republic of Iraq during a live television broadcast on Tuesday.
“[They] will be left in the lurch when we start imposing our sanctions (…) “It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq.”, Erdogan stated.
The Turkish leader continued by saying that “flying Israeli flags” would not save the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) from international isolation. Even more, the fact that only the Israeli regime has come out in support of the referendum that was held on September 25, proves its illegitimacy, according to Erdogan.
“If the only support for the KRG’s referendum is given by Israel and if the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK starts celebrating [the results] even before the polls close then there can be neither innocence nor legitimacy,” Erdogan stated in an interview to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet taken on the same day.
The mentioning of the Israeli regime refers to earlier statements by high-ranking members of the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which they voiced their support for Kurdish secession from Iraq.
Erdogan’s alluding to halting all oil imports and exports between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan would surely be welcomed by the Iraqi national government, which earlier issued a request to the international community asking to halt all direct oil trade with the region.
Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan used to maintain excellent diplomatical and economical relations, but these have soured significantly after the KRG, led by Masoud Barzani, decided to push through with the independence referendum despite repeated calls from the international community to cancel it. According to Erdogan, Turkey maintained hope up until the day of the referendum that Barzani would refrain from the controversial move.
“Until the very last moment, we weren’t expecting Barzani to make such a mistake as holding the referendum, apparently we were wrong (…) This referendum decision, which has been taken without any consultation, is treachery.”, the Turkish president stated in his speech on Tuesday.
Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan however, stated on Monday that the KRG would not unilaterally declare independence from Iraq even if the pro-independence vote wins the referendum.
“The referendum does not mean independence will happen tomorrow, nor are we redrawing borders,” he said. “If the ‘yes’ vote wins, we will resolve our issues with Baghdad peacefully.”, the premier spoke on the day of the plebiscite.
Despite this, the Iraqi national government has stated that it would not accept any results of the referendum whatsoever, as it is in violation of the Iraqi constitution and therefore illegal, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Baghdad is supported by Turkey, Iran and Syria in this statement, with Turkey already hosting joint military exercises with the Iraqi armed forces near the KRG border.
The official results of the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on secession are expected to be published on Wednesday.