Turkish deputy PM says Barzani playing with fire by holding referendum

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Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ

Reiterating Turkey’s opposition to an upcoming referendum on independence to be held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said KRG President Massoud Barzani is playing with fire.

According to a Diken news website report on Wednesday, Bozdağ asked Barzani to cancel the referendum, which he claimed, is going to harm to Barzani and others if it is held.

“We are saying this very clearly. This is a dangerous path. It is not the right way. Barzani is playing with fire. This fire will first burn Barzani and then others. What is right is to stop playing with fire, to act reasonably and cancel the referendum,” said Bozdağ.

Iraq’s Supreme Court has ordered the suspension of the independence referendum slated for Sept. 25, until it makes a final ruling on the case.

“The referendum will be held on Sept. 25,” Barzani said on Monday in response to the decision of the top court.

The court made the ruling after two members of the Iraqi parliament from the Turkmen Front asked the court to look into the legality of the Kurdish referendum, especially in Kurdistan and disputed areas such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

Baghdad and Ankara have been strongly opposing the independence referendum in the KRG.

“You ask for help during your difficult times and get all sorts of support, but when it comes to dividing Iraq you go your own way,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, criticizing KRG President Barzani for a contradiction in his relations with Turkey.

Commenting on the referendum Erdoğan said on Friday night that Barzani would better understand Turkey’s position after a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 due to the Kurdistan referendum.

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.

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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