x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 October 2017

Erdogan warns Kurds to stop bid for independence 

The vote could spark a new conflict and must be avoided at all costs, warns Turkish president

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns a Kurdish independence vote could spark a new regional conflict REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns a Kurdish independence vote could spark a new regional conflict REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, sent a warning to the Kurdish Regional Government that its bid to trigger independence from Iraq would spark new regional conflicts.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Mr Erdogan called on Kurdish leaders to call off the planned vote on September 25. “New crises in the region, such as bids for independence, could spark new conflicts and must therefore be avoided at all costs,” he said. “We urge Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government to abort the steps they have taken in that direction.”

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Mr Erdogan’s remarks came as the president of Iraqi Kurdistan has given Baghdad three days to reach an agreement with his government over an alternative to next week’s highly contested referendum vote.

Masoud Barzani set the deadline while speaking at a campaign rally in Soran in the governorate of Erbil.

Baghdad’s central government rejects the vote, calling it “unconstitutional”, while the US, Iran and Turkey have pressed the Kurds to postpone the poll.

They claim the referendum will distract from the fight against ISIL and spark further instability in the region.

“People of the Kurdistan region want independence. We will not accept threatening language from any country,” Mr Barzani said.

“We are the factor of stability in the region.”

Instead, he called for agreements with Baghdad, backed by international and regional countries, to replace the referendum.

But Mr Barzani said that “this has not been offered yet”.

“I will be honest with you, Baghdad has not reached that level yet,” he said.

A curfew was imposed in Kirkuk yesterday after one person was killed in clashes between Turkmen security guards and Kurds.

The city is inhabited by several different ethnic groups and claimed by the Kurdish region and Iraq’s central government.

Kirkuk’s council has voted to take part in the referendum.

Turkey, which fears Kurdish independence in Iraq could empower the Kurdish separatists within its borders, has sent tanks and troops to near the Iraqi border.

Turkey’s defence minister Nurettin Canikli yesterday warned that the break-up of Iraq or Syria could have dire consequences.

“A change that will mean the violation of Iraq’s territorial integrity poses a major risk for Turkey,” Mr Canikli said.

“The disruption of Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity will ignite a bigger, global conflict with an unseen end.”