Erdoğan on KRG referendum: Barzani will better understand our position after MGK meeting

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) and President of Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani (L) shake hands during their meeting at Mabeyn Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on February 26, 2017. Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency

Commenting on an upcoming referendum on independence to be held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday night that KRG President Massoud Barzani will better understand Turkey’s position after a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 due to the Kurdistan referendum.

Commenting on live TV during an interview following the Iraqi parliament’s decision to back the referendum on Sept. 25, Erdoğan described the decision as the result of political inexperience.

Erdoğan underlined the importance of the territorial integrity of Iraq and the sizable Turcoman and Arab populations in the KRG that will be affected by the independence referendum.

“Barzani will better understand our concerns following the MGK meeting on Sept. 22,” Erdoğan said in the interview.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım asked Barzani to change his decision to hold a referendum before it is too late, the Karar daily reported.

Underlining that Turkey had warned the KRG about holding an independence referendum, which is also opposed by the Iraqi central government, Iran, the US and Britain, Yıldırım said: “We are asking Barzani nicely. Stop this wrong decision while there is still time.”

Referring to the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Yıldırım argued that the referendum would create more problems for Kurds in the region.

“Turkey is against any step that will change the territorial integrity of Iraq and the federal nature of Iraq’s constitution. … We do not like to reach a stage of imposing sanctions, yet if there is an eclipse of reason, the steps Turkey will take are obvious. “

Turkey strongly opposes the KRG referendum decision. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who paid a visit to Baghdad and Arbil on Aug. 23, called on the KRG on Aug. 16 to review its decision, warning that it could trigger a civil war in Iraq.

“Holding an independence referendum in a country that has so many problems may cause the current situation to deteriorate. God forbid, that could lead to a civil war,” Çavuşoğlu said in his statement, reminding that the KRG took the decision despite the fact that Turkey was against it.

Turkey’s MGK at a meeting on July 17 stated that “the KRG’s referendum decision will not be able to be put into practice either de jure or de facto.”

Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli on Aug. 24 said an independence referendum in northern Iraq must be seen as a reason for war for Turkey.

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