Turkey’s National Security Council says Iraqi Kurdish referendum illegitimate, unacceptable

KRG President Massoud Barzani

Turkey’s National Security Council Meeting (MGK), which convened under Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ended late on Friday, has stressed that the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum slated for Sunday was illegitimate and unacceptable.

“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 issued after the meeting.

It also added that Turkey reserved its rights originating from bilateral and international conventions. “Turkey reserves its rights originating from bilateral and international conventions if this referendum is held despite all of our warnings,” it stated.

It once again urged the Kurdish Regional Government to cancel the referendum which it said was “threatening Turkey’s national security.” The statement noted the inevitability of the fact that there would be serious consequences which would “damage the whole region” if the KRG insisted on the mistake.

Meanwhile, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party spokesperson Osman Baydemir has said approving a parliamentary motion to extend a mandate for another year allowing the Turkish government to conduct cross-border operations means reaffirming a state of emergency, known as OHAL, declared by the government immediately after a coup attempt in July 15, 2016.

A motion to extend a mandate for another year to conduct cross-border operations after the holding of a referendum on independence on Sunday by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq has been proposed to the Turkish Parliament, the Doğan news agency reported on Friday.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Mustafa Elitaş said an extension of the mandate allowing the government to conduct cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria would be discussed during an extraordinary session in the General Assembly on Saturday at 4 p.m.

However, HDP’s Baydemir argued during a press meeting on Friday that approving the parliamentary motion would mean supporting the wrong foreign policies of the government. “Those saying yes to this motion will also say ‘yes’ to OHAL. They will also say ‘yes’ to the wrong Middle Eastern policy of the AKP-MHP [Justice and Development Party-Nationalist Movement Party] and enmity against Kurds.”

The opposition MHP announced that it would support the AKP government for the extension of the motion.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy group chair Engin Altay said his party would support the parliamentary motion “If it strengthens the Turkish Armed Forces’ hand in the anti-terror fight.”

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the motion would give Turkey the right to conduct operations if its national security is threatened.

Yıldırım renewed his warning and asked the KRG to cancel the referendum, saying: “This referendum will not do any good to our Kurdish brothers. It will not be good for the region.”

In October of last year, Parliament approved an extension of the mandate of the Turkish Armed Forces to conduct military operations in Iraq and Syria for another year. The mandate was first approved in 2007. In 2014, it was extended to include Syria for possible operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria and other groups.

Despite growing international pressure to call off the referendum, which Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey and Iran, fear will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said they would hold the referendum on September 25 but may discuss the process with Baghdad. Barzani said a separation of Kurdistan from Iraq could take up to two years.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the Turkish Cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara’s options on Friday and put forward their own position on what kind of sanctions Turkey could impose.

Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, has warned that any breakup of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict and is due to prepare a formal response on Friday, three days before the referendum.

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. Around 100 tanks and military vehicles, backed by rocket launchers and radar, deployed in open farmlands near the frontier, guns pointed south toward the Kurdish mountains.

Meanwhile, international objections against an independence referendum to be held by KRG are mounting, NY Times reported on Thursday. According to the report, neighbors and allies, including Turkey and US repeatedly voiced their opposition to the referendum warning that it will trigger ethnic violence, create division in Iraq and undermine fight against Islamic state militants.

Turkish President Erdoğan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday and reaffirmed their rejection of KRG’s independence referendum.

The White House earlier described the call to vote as “provocative and destabilizing.”

The United Nations also warned that the vote would have a negative impact on the fight by American-led coalition against ISIL. The coalition consists of Kurdish fighters and Iraqi army units.

Iran on the other hand promised to close its border with the region if the referendum is held. Iran as well as Turkey are worried about the potential repercussions of referendum on their Kurdish minorities.

The Iraqi government in Baghdad opposed the referendum calling it illegal and warned that Iraq is ready for military operation if violence breaks up after referendum. There are also opposing groups within Kurdistan itself. (SCF with turkishminute.com)


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