Kurdistan referendum: Iraqi Kurds must give up on independence or go hungry, says Turkish PM

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that the referendum on support for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan next door, risks sparking an 'ethnic war' in the region

26 September 2017, 5:15pm
Turkish President Erdogan said he would not hesitate to use the 'means at his disposal' to maintain peace (Photo: Reuters)
Turkish President Erdogan said he would not hesitate to use the 'means at his disposal' to maintain peace (Photo: Reuters)
In a speech at the presidential palace, which took place in Ankara, Erdogan stated that all options, including the military, are on the table, in order to keep Turkey protected.

He repeated his Monday threat to cut off the pipeline, which exports the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq’s oil, across the Turkish border.

The KRG, which has a population of 8.4 million, took to the polls to vote on whether to separate from Baghdad in a referendum, which was not recognized by the central government.

The turnout is believed to have been high (around 72%) and local television said 90% of votes had been cast as ‘yes’ to independence.

Results are expected to come in by Wednesday.

“Until the very last moment, we weren’t expecting Barzani to make such a mistake as holding the referendum. Apparently, we were wrong”, said Erdogan, referring to KRG president Masoud Barzani.

“This referendum decision, which has been taken without any consultation, is treachery”.

"If Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war," he warned.

Erdogan said Turkey, which has long been the Kurdistan Region's main link to the outside world, might impose sanctions to persuade Mr Barzani's administration to "give up".

"It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq”, he added.

The referendum was held in the three Iraqi provinces that make up the Kurdistan Region, as well as in adjoining disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the Arab-led central government that are controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The US earlier said it was "deeply disappointed" that the Kurdistan Region held the referendum, but stressed that their "historic relationship" would not change.

The Kurdish, who account for roughly 30 million people, across several countries and states, were left ‘stateless’, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed a century ago.