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Hurriyet: Turkey to hold key security meet on measures against Iraqi Kurdish independence

Hurriyet: Turkey to hold key security meet on measures against Iraqi Kurdish independence

21 September 2017 | 15:00 | FOCUS News Agency
Ankara.Turkey’s top security board and the cabinet will convene on Sept. 22 in a bid to announce measures to be taken in the event the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) goes forward with holding the independence referendum on Sept. 25, despite strong opposition from Baghdad and regional countries, Hurriyet reported.
The National Security Council (MGK) will meet under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately after his return from the United States where he attended United Nations General-Assembly meetings and held bilateral meetings with world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.
The MGK was supposed to meet on Sept. 27 but has been brought forward to Sept. 22 in order to allow Turkey’s top civilian and military officials to ponder over actions to be taken against the KRG’s referendum.
In a statement in New York, Erdoğan said the sanctions Turkey will impose will not be “ordinary” but did not give details. He also informed that the cabinet will convene on the same day in order to register advisory decisions of the MGK as the official rules.
Along with Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, deputy prime ministers, defense and foreign ministers as well as Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, all force commanders and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan will join the MGK meeting.
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Erdoğan: Turkey mulling sanctions over Iraqi Kurdish referendum

Erdoğan: Turkey mulling sanctions over Iraqi Kurdish referendum

20 September 2017 | 12:47 | FOCUS News Agency
Ankara. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan late on Sept. 19 warned of sanctions against the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) if it proceeds with its planned referendum for independence next week, Hurriyet reported.
“We have always supported” the KRG, Erdoğan told reporters in New York after his address at the U.N. General Assembly.
“We think this approach of theirs amounts to ignoring the Republic of Turkey, which has stood by them and counted them as a close ally,” he added.
The cabinet and the National Security Council will convene to make a final decision, Erdoğan said.
“The cabinet will undoubtedly evaluate this situation and assess possible sanctions, which will not be ordinary,” he said.
“We will express our determined stance on this,” he added.
Residents in provinces controlled by the KRG will vote Sept. 25 on independence from Baghdad.
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is among the contested areas where the vote is planned.
Last week, Iraqi lawmakers voted against the independence referendum and called on the Baghdad government to negotiate with the KRG.
The Iraqi government is opposed to the poll, claiming it will affect the war against ISIL, cause instability and violate the Iraqi constitution.
Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the U.N. have all backed Baghdad in speaking out against the referendum.
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AFP: Iraq supreme court orders suspension of Kurdistan referendum

AFP: Iraq supreme court orders suspension of Kurdistan referendum

18 September 2017 | 13:25 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Iraq's supreme court on Monday ordered the suspension of a September 25 referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, to examine whether such a poll would be constitutional, AFP reported.
"The supreme court has issued the order to suspend organising the referendum set for September 25... until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional," it said in a statement.

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The New York Times: Iraq Leader Says He Will Use Force if Kurdish Referendum Turns Violent

The New York Times: Iraq Leader Says He Will Use Force if Kurdish Referendum Turns Violent

17 September 2017 | 01:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Iraq is prepared to intervene militarily if the Kurdish region’s planned independence referendum results in violence, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday, The New York Times reports.

If the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily,” he said.

Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to hold a referendum on Sept. 25 to gauge support for independence from Iraq in three governorates that make up its autonomous region, and in disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.

“If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very dangerous escalation,” Mr. Abadi said.

The leaders of Iraq’s Kurdish region have said they hope the referendum will push Baghdad to negotiate a path for independence. Mr. Abadi said such negotiations would be complicated by the referendum.
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AFP: US urges Kurds to call off independence vote

AFP: US urges Kurds to call off independence vote

16 September 2017 | 02:36 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. Washington put to one side its longstanding sympathy for its allies in Iraqi Kurdistan on Friday and sternly urged the region to call off its independence referendum, AFP reports.
Earlier, Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers had voted to approve the September 25 vote that was set in motion by regional president Massud Barzani, a Washington ally who has publicly kept open the option of postponing it.
Washington has long supported Kurdish autonomy and has relied on the region's forces in the war against the Islamic State group, but it fears that now is not the time for the people to seize their freedom.
US officials fear the vote, while not legally binding, will hurt Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's re-election chances; complicate ties with Turkey; and disrupt the war against IS.

"The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas," President Donald Trump's White House said, in a statement.

"Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing," it warned. While Baghdad recognizes Kurdistan's autonomy, the precise boundary between the region and the rest of Iraq is unclear.

Washington has repeatedly offered to help negotiate a long-term settlement between Arbil and Baghdad, but regional leaders -- including Barzani -- have been increasingly frustrated that warm words have not led to a precise diplomatic timetable.

This week, top US envoy Brett McGurk was again in Arbil and attempted to persuade the Kurdish leader to call off the highly-charged popular vote in exchange for a new diplomatic initiative.

Under this plan, a well-placed source told AFP, the international community will oversee negotiations on revenue sharing in Iraq's oil budget and payment for Kurdish militia fighters.

Borders and military forces would remain in their current positions, and Baghdad would authorize Kurdistan to continue exporting the oil that it currently ships through Turkey in breach of the federal constitution.

Finally, Kurdish parties would take part in the Iraqi government and the 2018 elections.

Analysts, however, told AFP that this would not be enough at this stage to convince Barzani to hold off on an independence vote in which he has invested much of his domestic political capital.

"They were very unlikely to accept a deal unless the deal had some kind of iron-clad specificity and international guarantee," said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"The leaders of the US, Britain and the United Nations would have had to commit to the date by which Kurdistan and Iraq would have negotiated Kurdish sovereignty -- or commit to supporting a Kurdish unilateral declaration of independence."

Accordingly, and in the face of bitter opposition from Baghdad, 65 out of 68 lawmakers present voted in favor of the September 25 poll as opposition members boycotted the parliament's first session in two years.

After the show of hands, lawmakers stood to sing the Kurdish anthem while others raised flags to the sound of applause.

The vote was to give a legal framework to the referendum that has also stirred protests from neighboring states, especially Turkey.
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Prof. Vladimir Chukov: Positive vote on Kurdish referendum in Iraq will not bring benefits for Erbil

Prof. Vladimir Chukov: Positive vote on Kurdish referendum in Iraq will not bring benefits for Erbil

15 September 2017 | 11:26 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. A positive vote on the Kurdish referendum in Iraq will not lead to benefits for Erbil, the capital of the Kurds, Arab World expert Prof. Vladimir Chukov told FOCUS Radio’s Good Morning Bulgaria regarding the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan on September 25.
The referendum will not produce membership in the UN Security Council, he said.
Kurds in Iraq actually have a state, they have their government, parliament, president, army and universities. Recognition is what they want and seek to guarantee through the referendum, the expert commented, adding that the opinion of the international community, especially of the world powers, matters.
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Reuters: Barzani vows to press on with Kurdish referendum, defying Iraq parliament

Reuters: Barzani vows to press on with Kurdish referendum, defying Iraq parliament

12 September 2017 | 22:03 | FOCUS News Agency
Erbil. Iraq’s Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with a referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25 despite a vote by Iraq’s parliament to reject the move, Reuters reports.

Earlier the parliament in Baghdad authorized the prime minister to “take all measures” to preserve Iraq’s unity. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements rejecting the decision.

Western powers fear a plebiscite in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region - including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could ignite conflict with the central government in Baghdad and divert attention from the war against Islamic State militants.

Iraq’s neighbors - Turkey, Iran and Syria - also oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.

“The referendum will be held on time... Dialogue with Baghdad will resume after the referendum,” Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said in a statement on his ruling party’s official website after the vote.

Barzani told a gathering of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk that the referendum was “a natural right”, according to a tweet from his aide Hemin Hawrami. Barzani also said Kirkuk should have a “special status” in a new, independent Kurdistan.
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AA: Iraqi Christians are mostly against the Kurdish independence referendum

AA: Iraqi Christians are mostly against the Kurdish independence referendum

22 August 2017 | 20:11 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Christians living in the northern Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Mosul have voiced opposition to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s upcoming referendum on regional independence, Anadolu Agency reports.

“Most of Iraq’s Christian community opposes a regional referendum,” Imad Yohanna, deputy secretary-general of the Baghdad-based Assyrian Democratic Movement, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.Yohanna, who is also a member of Iraq’s parliament, said: “We reject this referendum; we don’t view it as beneficial to our people’s future.”

The MP went on to point out that numerous Christians had had to flee their homes in recent years due to the Daesh terrorist group’s activities in the region.

“Holding a referendum in areas to which they [i.e., Christians] have yet to return would be an injustice and an exploitation of internally displaced people,” he said.
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Iraqi News: Kurdish leader Barzani says that independence referendum will not be postponed

Iraqi News: Kurdish leader Barzani says that independence referendum will not be postponed

22 August 2017 | 18:15 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Kurdistan Region will not postpone a September 25th vote on its independence from Iraq even for a minute, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani was quoted saying Tuesday, Iraqi News writes.

“We will endure anything, but will not postpone the referendum even for a single minute,” Shafaq News website quoted him telling Christian, Yazidi, Turkmen and Armenian community representatives in Erbil.

“Some say the referendum does not serve Iraq’s and the region’s best, we tell them that postponing the referendum does not serve Kurds’ best neither,” he said, assuring that the poll would not affect Iraq’s war against the Islamic State.

Kurdistan gained autonomous governance based on the 2005 constitution, but is still considered a part of Iraq. The region was created in 1970 based on an agreement with the Iraqi government, ending years of conflicts.
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AFP: Turkey warns Iraqi Kurdish referendum risks 'civil war'

AFP: Turkey warns Iraqi Kurdish referendum risks 'civil war'

16 August 2017 | 14:19 | FOCUS News Agency
Ankara. Turkey warned Wednesday that plans by the leadership in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence could lead to civil war, in Ankara's strongest warning yet against next month's poll.

"In that country (Iraq), which has been through so many problems, a referendum on independence can make the situation even worse," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state TRT Haber broadcaster.

"God forbid, it could even bring it to civil war," he added.

Turkey has a substantial Kurdish minority which is sometimes estimated as making up around a quarter of its total population of just under 80 million.

Ankara has in recent years forged strong ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq but is extremely wary of any move towards independence by the region.

Turkish security forces in the southeast of the country are still fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly three-decade insurgency.

The PKK initially aimed to carve out an independent Kurdish state in the southeast although its declared ambitions are now more focused on autonomy and rights.

Ankara is also concerned about the presence of the Syrian Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG) in the border area, fearing an autonomous Kurdish region could also emerge in northern Syria.

- 'Error and a threat' -
Analysts have little doubt that the September 25 referendum would result in a 'Yes' for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.

But the result would be non binding and leave the approximately five million Kurds of northern Iraq some way away from actual independence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June strongly criticised the referendum plan, calling it "an error" and "a threat" to Iraq's territorial integrity.

"The fundamental reason for our opposition to this referendum is the importance of preserving Iraq's territorial and political integrity," Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a radio interview Wednesday, denying any ill will towards the Kurds.

Widely seen as the world's largest stateless people, most Kurds are spread between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. But it is only in Iraq where they have achieved a recognised autonomy.

Iraqi Kurdish oil is exported through Turkey, a key economic lifeline for the region.

Iran has also opposed the referendum plan, which is expected to be discussed this week in talks in Ankara between the Turkish leadership and Iran's chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri.
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