Erdogan, Rouhani Threaten ‘Heavier’ Response to Kurdish Independence Vote

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) welcomes Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Tehran on October 4, 2017 in a sign of warming ties between the two neighbours which both strongly oppose last week's Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence
Iranian Presidency/AFP HO

The presidents of Turkey and Iran reportedly stressed their strong objections to Iraqi Kurdistan’s efforts to become an independent state during a recent meeting in Tehran.

Referring to Kurds overwhelmingly voting “yes” to breaking away from Baghdad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, “This kind of development will isolate the Kurdish Regional Government [KRG}.”

Erdogan later added:

From this moment forward, more decisive steps will be taken. As Iran and Turkey—and the central [Iraqi] government—there are still heavier steps for us to take.

We do not recognize the illegitimate referendum of the northern Iraqi regional government. Turkey shares some 350 kilometers [about 217 miles] of its borderline [with Iraqi Kurdistan]. Iran is to the east, central Iraq is to the south, and Syria is to the west. Why did northern Iraq hold this referendum? There is no country in the world that recognized it other than Israel. A decision made while sitting at the table with the Mossad [Israeli intelligence agency] cannot be legitimate, it is illegitimate.

Many Iranians welcome criticism tied to Tehran’s regional foe Israel.

While Israel is the only country in the Middle East that backed the KRG’s non-binding independence referendum, Russia also expressed support, saying the Kurds had the “right” to vote on their future on September 25.

Hurriyet Daily News reports, “Israel denied Turkey’s previous accusations of involvement in the vote but has welcomed the Sept. 25 KRG vote for independence.”

Baghdad, Iran, and Turkey have come out against the independence referendum held by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, threatening military retaliation if the Kurds fail to cancel the outcome of the “yes” vote.

“We will not accept changing borders in the region,” declared Iranian President Rouhani at Wednesday’s news conference, adding, “We want security and stability in the Middle East. … The independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan is a sectarian plot by foreign countries and is rejected by Tehran and Ankara.”

“The wrong decisions made by some of the leaders of this region must be compensated for by them. Turkey, Iran, and Iraq have no choice but to take serious and necessary measures to protect their strategic goals in the region,” also said the Islamic Republic’s leader.

Iraq has threatened a military response in coordination with Iran and Turkey against the KRG for refusing to cancel outcome of its independence vote.

Shiite-led Baghdad has already taken measures against Kurdistan, including an international flight ban.

While the United States has insisted on its opposition to an independent Kurdish state, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the Kremlin was exercising a policy of “non-interference.”

Russia has been “using cautious rhetoric after the independence referendum in order not to explode the situation in the region,” reports Hurriyet.

In July, the Kremlin said the KRG had the “right” to hold an independence referendum.

Days before the vote, the Kremlin-controlled oil company Rosneft announced that it is investing nearly $1 billion in gas pipelines in Iraqi Kurdistan, a move that would expand Russia’s “commitment to the region ahead of its independence vote to help it become a major exporter of gas to Turkey and Europe,” noted Reuters.


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