Erdoğan says KRG will pay a price for independence referendum

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President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech in Istanbul, Turkey on September 29, 2017. Abdullah Coskun / Anadolu Agency

Referring to a controversial independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday that the KRG will pay a price for holding a referendum despite Turkey’s objections.

“Our only expectation was for them [KRG] to respect our sensitivities and not take a step despite us. They took this step anyway, and they will pay a price,” Erdoğan said.

He went on to say that the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk is a controversial area, claiming that Kurds have no place in the history of Kirkuk. Erdoğan threatened the KRG in a speech in the eastern province of Erzurum.

Calling the decision to hold the independence referendum on Monday an act of “treason” against Turkey, Erdoğan said the rate of participation in the referendum and the results were suspicious.

“Those who are provoking you today will leave you alone tomorrow, but we will continue to live together for thousands of years. Don’t destroy your tomorrow by your ambition today. The fact that Israeli flags are waving there will not save you, you should know that,” Erdoğan said.

Earlier this week, Erdoğan had warned KRG President Massoud Barzani not to rely on Israel.

Arguing that the majority of “yes” votes in the referendum do not have any value since no country other than Israel recognizes the referendum results, Erdoğan threatened the KRG with cutting off oil exports from the Kurdistan region and economic sanctions.

“When we start imposing sanctions, you will be left alone. Once we close the [oil pipeline valves], it is all done. Once the trucks stop going to northern Iraq, there won’t be any food. We have to [impose] sanctions. How is Israel going to send them anything, from where?” asked Erdoğan.

Speaking during the International Ombudsman Conference in İstanbul on Monday, Erdoğan said the referendum was unacceptable and added that Ankara would take economic, trade and security countermeasures.

Underlining that the northern Iraq administration can only sell its oil via Turkey, Erdoğan said: “We have the tap. The moment we close the tap, it’s over.”

“There are several measures on the table. … We will see through which channels the northern Iraqi regional government will send its oil and where they will sell it,” he added.

Speaking during an interview with NTV, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also said Turkey is determined to take action if its national security is threatened.

“We will not enter into an adventure unexpectedly in any way, but if there is a position that will harm the interests of our country, then we will respond without delay,” Yıldırım said.

“We will from now on consider only the central government in Baghdad as a legitimate interlocutor, not the KRG based in Arbil,” he added.

Despite warnings from the Baghdad administration and abroad, including from Ankara and Washington, the KRG held a referendum on Monday for a separate Kurdistan state in northern Iraq.

The results show that over 92 percent of more than 3 million people voted in favor of separation from Baghdad and the formation of an independent Kurdistan state.

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