Turkey's Erdogan in Tehran warns of further measures against Iraqi Kurdistan's independence push
Mr Erdogan’s visit to Tehran shows signs of warming ties between the two countries, who support rival camps in Syria but both strongly oppose last week’s Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived on Wednesday in Iran, where he held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.
Mr Erdogan’s visit to Tehran shows signs of warming ties between the two countries, who support rival camps in Syria but both strongly oppose last week’s Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence.
Both presidents vowed to work closely together to prevent the disintegration of Iraq and Syria and to oppose the Iraqi Kurds' drive for independence.
"We want security and stability in the Middle East ... The independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan is a sectarian plot by foreign countries and is rejected by Tehran and Ankara," Mr Rouhani said, "we will not accept a change of borders under any circumstance."
"Turkey, Iran and Iraq have no choice but to take serious and necessary measures to protect their strategic goals in the region," Mr Rohani said.
Mr Erdogan said Ankara was considering taking further measures against Iraqi Kurdistan.
"We have already said we don't recognise the referendum in northern Iraq... We have taken some measures already with Iran and the Iraqi central government, but stronger steps will be taken," he said.
"A development of this sort will isolate the Kurdish regional government," Mr Erdogan warned. "Our determination in this regard is clear. We correspond with the central government in Iraq and as far as we are concerned, this referendum is illegitimate."
Turkey and Iran both have a sizeable Kurdish community and fear last week’s vote will encourage their own Kurdish populations to do the same. Both expressed their willingness to work together and with the government of Baghdad, which deemed the vote “illegal”.
Mr Erdogan referred to the Israeli intelligence agency and said "there is no country other than Israel that recognizes it. It is not possible for any decision taken after discussions with Mossad to be legal."
Mr Rouhani also said that Tehran and Ankara are planning to expand their economic ties.
"Turkey will import more gas from Iran... Meetings will be held next week to discuss the details," he said.
On Sunday, Turkish armed forces chief of staff Gen Hulusi Akar arrived in Tehran. The two countries have held military manoeuvres close to their borders with Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region in recent days to ratchet up the pressure on Kurdish leaders.
Those exercises have also involved forces of the federal government in Baghdad, which has demanded the annulment of the September 25 vote, which returned a 92.7 per cent majority for independence.
"Co-operation between Iran, Turkey and Iraq can create stability and security in the region and block moves for secession," Iranian defence minister Gen Amir Hatami said as he held talks with Gen Akar on Tuesday.
Baghdad imposed a ban on all international flights to Kurdish airports on Friday, while Tehran has ordered a halt to all trade in fuel products with Iraqi Kurdistan. Iran said it will allow Iraqi federal forces to deploy at its border crossings with the region.
Turkey threatened to close its land border and halt the export of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, an economic lifeline.
Mr Erdogan said on Saturday that Iraqi Kurdistan "will pay a price" for the "unacceptable" referendum.
The vote set off alarm bells in Baghdad, where the government has said it is determined to prevent a breakup of the country, Baghdad's central government requested the KRG to "cancel" the results of the vote and to "abide" by the constitution and "retreat" from the Kurdistan areas outside of the KRG's administration.
In response, the Kurdish government's spokesperson, Safeen Dizayee, said that "the referendum on independence for the Kurdistan region was constitutional and it is not within the powers of the Kurdish leadership or government to cancel the results."
"It was the people who determined their future in the referendum," he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi headed to France on Wednesday to hold talks with French president Emmanuel Macron on terrorism and bilateral relations.
The Kurds are the region's fourth largest ethnic group, spread across Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, all of which oppose any moves towards a Kurdish state.
Updated: October 4, 2017 09:54 PM