Turkey plans security steps over Iraqi Kurdish referendum

On Friday, Turkey's National Security Council held a meeting chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara to discuss the referendum planned by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Turkey's government will never accept a separate Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq and won't refrain from taking steps to prevent it, the Turkish prime minister said Friday.

The country has the largest Kurdish population in the region and is already battling a Kurdish insurgency.

His remarks came after repeated calls from Turkey, U.S. and Iran to cancel the vote slated for September 25.

"We conveyed our opinions [on referendum] clearly and without hesitation to our friends in the coalition".

Earlier this week, Iraqi forces launched anti-ISIS operations outside Kirkuk in Iraq's north as well as in western Anbar along the border with Syria.

Yildirim spoke to reporters hours before Turkey's political and military leaders met to consider possible sanctions and other measures against Iraq's Kurdish region if it goes ahead with the vote on Monday. Among other things, the referendum could jeopardize Kurdish trade relations in the region.

The statement issued by the Security Council late on Thursday expressed "continuing respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of Iraq".

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Evidence on the ground indicates that the Kurdistan region is on track to conduct the referendum on September 25 despite all internal and external rejection.

Hoshiyar Zebari, a top adviser to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, told Reuters on Saturday that a delegation has been dispatched to Baghdad to conduct a dialogue with the Iraqi government.

The parliament will convene for an extraordinary meeting on Saturday in order to discuss policy on Iraq.

The United States has urged the KRG to cancel the vote, while the U.N. Security Council warned in a statement of its "potentially destabilizing" impact on Iraq.

The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas - and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad - vote whether to declare full independence from Iraq.

Barzani talked about the bombardment of Halabja by chemical weapons during Saddam Hussein's rule, as well as Saddam's campaign against Kurdish villages in Iraq.

"I want to say once again that we, as Turkey, will support a solution within the Iraqi Constitution".

  • Megan Austin