Ankara (AFP) – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday he wants to hold a summit with Iranian and Iraqi leaders to coordinate how to respond to the controversial Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum.
“We are planning to come together in the near future to coordinate the steps to be taken for the next period with regard to these issues,” Yildirim told reporters in the central Turkish province of Corum.
“We want a three-way summit… we think that this format would be more productive,” he added.
Iran, the Iraqi government and Turkey have all expressed alarm after the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq held the non-binding referendum on Monday.
The result was a resounding 92.7 percent “yes” for independence. But Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran have refused to recognise the poll.
Iraqi officials said on Thursday that all foreign flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil would be suspended from Friday. Turkey announced on Thursday its flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan would be suspended from Friday evening.
Turkey has its own sizeable Kurdish minority and fears separatist aspirations growing from the vote as it already battles against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has bases in northern Iraq.
Ankara has repeatedly threatened a series of measures to isolate the Iraqi Kurds including shutting the border and halting its transit of oil from the KRG to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, an economic lifeline for the Iraqi Kurds.
Yildirim spoke on the phone on Thursday with Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri during which they discussed the referendum and bilateral relations, the Turkish prime ministry said.
The Turkish foreign ministry urged its citizens who did not have to stay to leave Iraqi Kurdistan “before the flights are suspended”.
Left without a state of their own in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the Kurds see themselves as the world’s largest stateless people straddled between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
By far the biggest population is in Turkey, which since 1984 has waged a campaign to defeat the PKK, which initially sought to create a breakaway state.