Erdoğan threatens Barzani with sanctions over Kurdish independence vote

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey during the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday threatened to impose sanctions on Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned independence vote on Sept. 25.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Erdoğan said the Turkish Cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara’s options on Friday and put forward their own position on what kind of sanctions Turkey could impose.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Erdoğan said that “if we do [impose sanctions], they will not be ordinary.”

Despite the growing international pressure to call off the vote, which Iraq’s neighbors, including Turkey and Iran, fear will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said they will hold the referendum on Sept. 25 but may discuss the process with Baghdad. Barzani said a separation of Kurdistan from Iraq could take up to two years.

Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, has warned that any breakup of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict and is due to prepare a formal response on Friday, three days before the referendum.

On Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing, which military sources said was due to last until Sept. 26, a day after the planned referendum.

Around 100 tanks and military vehicles, backed by rocket launchers and radar, deployed in open farmlands near the frontier, guns pointed south toward the Kurdish mountains.

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