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Erbil referendum could lead to Ankara's military intervention, media says

20 September 2017 [16:03] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan seem determined to hold an independence referendum despite the warnings of Iraq, Turkey, the U.S and others.

Residents in provinces controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) will vote on September 25on independence from Baghdad. The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is among the contested areas where the vote is planned.

The long-awaited vote is strongly opposed by Iraq and neighboring Iran, Turkey and Syria, as they fear separatism may spread to their own Kurdish populations and also obstacle fight against terrorism.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned of sanctions against the KRG if it proceeds with its planned referendum for independence next week.

“We have always supported the KRG,” Erdogan told reporters in New York after his address at the UN General Assembly. “We think this approach of theirs amounts to ignoring the Republic of Turkey, which has stood by them and counted them as a close ally.”

The cabinet and the National Security Council will convene to make a final decision, Erdogan said.

"The cabinet will undoubtedly evaluate this situation and assess possible sanctions, which will not be ordinary," he said.

Media reports that Ankara may cease the activity of the consulate of Iraqi Kurdistan operating in the country, and also close the border checkpoint Khabur in the province of Sirnak, which is the only checkpoint connecting the autonomous region with Turkey.

Turkish media reports that the independence referendum could lead to military intervention by Turkey in the north of Iraq.

Reportedly this option can be considered at a meeting on national security issues in Turkey, which will be held on September 22.

The head of Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, previously threatened war if the central government in Baghdad interferes with the holding of the referendum.

He noted that preparations for the referendum have been completed. “The Kurdish Autonomy does not intend to postpone holding the referendum on independence each time,” Barzani said.

The Iraqi government opposes the poll, claiming it will affect the war against Daesh, cause instability and violate the Iraqi Constitution. Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all backed Baghdad in speaking out against the referendum.

The Iraqi Prime Minister has slammed the planned vote as unconstitutional.  The UN called on Iraq’s Kurdish leaders to abandon the upcoming vote, saying it would undermine the ongoing battle in the Arab country against ISIS terrorists.

Israel is the only nation to have openly supported the independence bid.

Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East although they have never obtained a permanent nation state. In Iraq they make up an estimated 15-20 percent of the population of 37 million. Kurds acquired autonomy following the 1991 Gulf War.


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