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Turkey to send a “final warning” to determined Iraqi Kurds

Russia joins the countries urging the Kurds to postpone the vote

Gulf News

Dubai: Turkey plans to send its “toughest and final warning” to Iraq’s Kurdish provinces planning a referendum on independence on Monday, a senior adviser to the Turkish president said on Friday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to chair a National Security Council meeting on Friday, before a planned cabinet meeting to finalise the measures that Ankara will take if the Iraqi Kurds do vote for separation in northern Iraq.

The vote, is “a national security issue” for Turkey, said Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday.

“Turkey will sound the final and toughest warning to Barzani on Friday,” Ilnur Cevik, a senior adviser to Erdogan, wrote in an editorial in the English-language daily Sabah. “Turkey feels Barzani is getting himself into deep trouble which he cannot handle.”

On the other hand, Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, has so far ignored warnings from Turkey, Iran, Iraq and the US against holding the referendum. In a speech on Friday afternoon, Barzani said the referendum will go as planned. The issue of voting is “in the peoples’ hands”, not their leadership or political parties.

Hoshyar Zebari, a senior adviser to Barzani, told Reuters: “This is the last five metres of the final sprint and we will be standing our ground.” Many Kurds see the vote, though non-binding, as a historic opportunity to achieve self-determination since the end of the First World War, when Britain and France divided the Middle East under the Sykes-Picot agreement. That arrangement left 30 million Kurds scattered over Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq."

Zebari said delaying the vote would be “political suicide for the Kurdish leadership and the Kurdish dream of independence.

“An opportunity my generation won’t see again”.

Central Iraqi government in Baghdad, as well as regional and western countries called on the Iraqi Kurds to postpone the vote fearing it could break up the country.

Only Israel has actively encouraged the Kurds over the independence vote.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Iraqi counterpart Ebrahim Al Jaafari on Friday that Moscow supports Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

— With input from agencies