Turkey, Iran and Iraq on Thursday urged Iraq’s Kurdistan region to abandon a planned referendum on independence, threatening unspecified “counter-measures” if it goes ahead with the vote.
The foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran and Iraq held a rare trilateral meeting Wednesday in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, days ahead of the non-binding September 25 referendum. Ankara and Tehran fear independence for the Kurds of northern Iraq would embolden their own Kurdish minorities, and Baghdad has bitterly opposed the plebiscite.
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The three states reaffirmed their commitment to Iraq’s territorial integrity and emphasized their “unequivocal opposition to the referendum,” in a joint statement released by the Turkish foreign ministry. They also “agreed in this regard to consider taking counter-measures in coordination,” according to the statement, which did not provide any details.
The ministers called the planned vote “unconstitutional”, saying it ran the risk of provoking new conflicts in the region, and would “not be beneficial” for the Kurds of Iraq. They also said the referendum would put Iraq’s hard-earned gains against ISIS militants “under great risk”.
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The United States also opposes the referendum, warning that it may not be able to help Iraq’s Kurds negotiate a better deal with Baghdad if they go ahead with the vote.
Turkey has its own long-running conflict with separatists among its sizable Kurdish minority, and has vowed to quash any Kurdish state from emerging in war-torn Syria.
In New York, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday demanded that Iraqi Kurds call off the referendum, while hinting at consequences if they go ahead. “Steps such as demands for independence that can cause new crises and conflicts in the region must be avoided,” Erdogan told the UN General Assembly.
With conspicuous timing, Turkey on Monday launched a military drill involving 100 vehicles including tanks on the Iraqi border, which was continuing for a fourth day according to Turkish media reports.