Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns the Kurdish Regional Government against holding a referendum on independence, and backs Baghdad's stand for protecting the unity of Iraq.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi during his visit to the United States this week and discuss their concerns about the Kurdish Regional Government's (KRG) independence referendum, which is slated for September 25.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before leaving for New York to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Erdogan said: “We will hold a separate meeting with Iraqi Premier Haider al Abadi, but as far as I see, we are looking in the same direction. What is this direction? The territorial integrity of Iraq.”
The president said Turkey shares a 350-kilometre (217-mile) long border with Iraq, adding that both countries belong to the same civilisation.
Erdogan warned northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani again against holding a referendum on independence.
“You knock on our door and get any kind of support when you are in trouble, but you go your own way when it comes to the disintegration of Iraq.”
Turkey, the US and other Western powers have advised Iraq's semi-autonomous government to call off the vote, worrying that tensions between Baghdad and Erbil would distract the war on Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey has concerns that an independent Kurdish entity in the region could be a safe heaven for the PKK, which has been waging war against the Turkish state for three decades.
Turkey, the US and the EU all consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.
Despite the requests and concerns, KRG leader Massoud Barzani had said on Friday that the referendum would go ahead as planned on September 25.
Late on Saturday Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said northern Iraq's referendum was an issue of national security and Turkey would take any necessary steps.
With Barzani pressing on with the referendum, Erdogan said the Turkish government had brought forward planned national security council and cabinet meetings to September 22 and that Turkey would announce its position on the referendum afterwards.
The referendum issue will also top the agenda during his meeting with American President Donald Trump, Erdogan added.
“I have put a premium on the meeting with Trump. It corresponds to the time when critical regional developments are taking place.
“We have many important topics in our agenda. I believe that this meeting will have useful and productive outcomes.”
Turkey has, built good relations with Barzani's administration, founded on strong economic links as well as Ankara and Erbil's shared suspicions of other Kurdish groups and Iraq's central government.
The Kurdish Regional Government, led by Barzani's KDP party, exports hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil every day to world markets via Turkey.
The non-binding referendum is expected to see residents in provinces controlled by the Iraqi regional government vote on independence from Baghdad on September 25.
Baghdad rejects the planned poll, also says that holding the referendum would violate the terms of the country's constitution.