Sept. 26 (UPI) — The U.S. government expressed deep disappointment with the Kurdish decision to hold a vote for independence that had regional oil implications.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement published late Monday that the relationship with the Kurdish region of Iraq won’t change because of a referendum for independence, though the step would likely make matters worse, not better.
“The unilateral referendum will greatly complicate the Kurdistan Regional Government’s relationship with both the government of Iraq and neighboring states,” the statement read.
Turkey, which shares a border with the Kurdish north, said Monday it would take whatever steps necessary to ensure stability in the wake of the referendum. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the referendum was unacceptable and vowed to choke oil arteries from the Kurdish region.
“We have the tap,” he was quoted by Turkish news agency Hurriyet as saying. “The moment we close the tap, then it’s done.”
A pipeline from the Kurdish north has the capacity to carry 550,000 barrels of oil per day. Kurdish oil exports north through Turkey have been at times targeted by the group calling itself the Islamic State and, apart from trucking lanes, the Kurdish government would have few alternatives for oil exports should Turkey shut things down.
Iran, to the east of the Kurdish region, said it halted all flights to the Kurdish region and closed its airspace for Kurdish flights in response to the referendum. An Iranian military advisor said through the Fars News Agency the vote would stoke long-term tensions and foment crisis in the region.
Syria, to the Kurdish region’s west, is mired in civil war. The semiautonomous Kurdish government has long-standing grievances with the federal government in Baghdad. Some foreign governments said the referendum was illegal, though the Kurdish government said that, according to charter of the United Nations, it has the right to self-determination.
None of the foreign companies that do business in the Kurdish north responded to UPI with comments about the referendum. Payment issues in the past have complicated the corporate relationship with the Kurdish government.