Erdogan says Kurdistan Region to 'regret' independence referendum
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again voiced objection to a referendum the Kurdistan Region is set to hold in September on whether to secede from Iraq.
"I do not find the referendum that is going to take place in Erbil correct. We have relayed our view on this to the local administration in Northern Iraq," Erdogan recently told France24 TV in a Thursday-aired interview.
"Because [in the future] the local administration in Northern Iraq will regret this very much," Erdogan said, opting to avoid referring to the Kurdistan Region by its official name.
The region's leading political parties and President Masoud Barzani decided last month to hold a referendum on independence on September 25, 2017.
Pro-government Turkish media circulated reports that Ankara could shut down all commerce with Kurdistan and block its oil exports among other steps to deter the Kurdistan Regional Government from following through with the referendum and independence, including a military offensive into the Kurdistan Region under the pretext of fighting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Erdogan stated his country's commitment to the "territorial unity" of Iraq, adding a move for independence by the Kurds there could spread into neighboring regions.
"If you take such a step, and say I now begin disintegrating [the country], well this means that other [Kurds] will follow suit," the Turkish leader continued, expressing his state's long-held aversion to Kurdish separatism at home.
When asked about the prospects of a similar demand among the Kurds in Turkey, Erdogan said those trying do so "were paying a heavy price."
He stated that, unlike federal Iraq, Turkey is a strictly unitary state.
"There is no problem at all in the Southeast and the East," he went on, mentioning the geographic names Turkish officials use to refer to the Kurdish-majority provinces, seemingly denying the presence of decades-long conflict between the PKK and the army which has claimed more than 40 thousand lives in the region.
On the Kurds in Syria, who amid the civil war managed to declare autonomy, Erdogan said they constituted a "constant threat to Turkey."