Turkey calls on Barzani to cancel northern Iraq referendum

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairs the National Security Council in Ankara, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

:: Turkey made a directly appeal to the president of the northern Iraqi Kurdish region on Friday, calling on him to cancel an independence referendum planned for Sept. 25, warning that Ankara viewed the vote as illegal and unacceptable.

In a statement, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) called on Massoud Barzani to stop the referendum, saying it retained the rights defined in bilateral and international agreements if the vote were held. It did not elaborate on the nature of those rights.

The statement followed a meeting of the council, which was chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is also due to hold a cabinet meeting later on Friday.

Vote ‘illegitimate’

Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) slammed the planned independence referendum in Iraq’s Kurdistan region next week as “illegitimate” and “unacceptable”.

“The illegitimate and unacceptable nature of the referendum … has been specified once again,” the MGK said in the statement.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the referendum was a matter of national security for Turkey and Ankara would never accept a change of status in Iraq or Syria.

“An action that will change the status in Syria and Iraq is an unacceptable result for Turkey, and we will do what is necessary,” Yildirim said.

Erdogan has threatened to impose sanctions against Kurdish northern Iraq, saying the government would consider counter-measures against the vote at a cabinet meeting later on Friday.

The parliament will convene for an extraordinary meeting on Saturday in order to discuss policy on Iraq.

Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region and fighting a Kurdish insurgency, has warned that any breakup of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict.

On Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing, which military sources said was due to last until Sept. 26, a day after the planned referendum.

A direct threat to Turkey

The planned independence referendum for Kurdish northern Iraq represents a direct threat to Turkey’s security, and Ankara hopes it will be canceled so it can avoid implementing sanctions, Turkey’s government spokesman said.

Bekir Bozdag made the comments at a news conference following a cabinet meeting chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has threatened to impose sanctions on Kurdish northern Iraq over the referendum, but Bozdag did not give any details about what those could entail.

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