ANKARA, Turkey – 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.
Binali Yildirim again called on Iraqi Kurdish leaders to abandon plans for a referendum on independence, saying it wasn’t too late for them to turn away “from this adventure.”
“This decision for a referendum and the realization of this referendum is a matter of Turkish national security,” Yildirim said. “Turkey is determined – and wouldn’t hesitate to use its rights emanating from international agreements and bilateral agreements where matters of national security are concerned.”
“A change to the existing statuses of Syria or Iraq would be a result that we would never accept and would do the necessary against within our rights,” he said.
Yildirim was speaking to reporters hours before Turkey’s political and military leaders were due to meet to consider possible sanctions and other measures against Iraq’s Kurdish region if it goes ahead with the vote. The National Security Council was to meet followed by a Cabinet meeting on Friday as the country stepped up pressure on Iraq’s Kurds to abandon the vote slated for Sept. 25.
Ankara has forged close economic ties to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region but strongly opposes moves toward Kurdish independence. Turkey has a large ethnic Kurdish population and is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its territory.
Yildirim added: “It is not too late. The leadership in northern Iraq, (Iraqi Kurdish president Masoud) Barzani should abandon this passion, this obstinacy.”
This week, the military launched previously unannounced military exercises near the border with Iraq in an apparent warning to Iraq’s Kurds.
Turkey’s parliament will also hold an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss the planned referendum and also vote to extend a mandate that allows Turkey’s military to intervene in Syria and Iraq.
Yildirim said the mandate to be voted on Saturday gives the military “to intervene on all kinds of developments that are against our country and threaten our national security.”
“It gives the right to send troops,” he added.