TURKEY

Erdoğan: Turkey will never allow any threat against the historical Turkmen city of Kirkuk

ERDOĞAN: TURKEY WILL NEVER ALLOW ANY THREAT AGAINST THE HISTORICAL TURKMEN CITY OF KIRKUK

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Sunday that the illegitimate referendum held in northern Iraq was against the Iraqi constitution.

"We will never turn a blind eye to unrest well beyond our borders which will create a permanent threat both for Iraqi and Turkish nations and the countries in the region," Erdogan said in an opening speech at the Turkish parliament's third legislative session.

He said that Turkey would never allow any threat against the historical Turkmen city of Kirkuk, which is one of the territories disputed between the central Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional Government.

Monday's illegitimate poll saw Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, including ethnically mixed Kirkuk and Mosul -- vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq's central government.

According to preliminary figures released by the KRG, almost 93 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of independence from Baghdad.

The illegitimate referendum in northern Iraq had faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, many of whom had warned that the poll would further destabilize the Middle East.

"Turkey no longer needs to become EU member"

European Union needs to grant full membership to Turkey if it really wants to make a leap forward, by launching an economic and cultural expansion initiative, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday, as he criticized the bloc for delaying the country's accession.

Erdoğan criticized EU for failing to cooperate with Turkey on a number of issues, including the fight against terrorism.

"In reality we actually no longer need EU membership, but if the EU wants to make a leap forward there is only one way and that is by granting Turkey membership, to launch a genuine economic and cultural expansion" the president said, adding that Turkey will be happy to contribute to the bloc's future.

Erdoğan continued by saying that it will not matter for Turkey if the EU does not grant membership, and that the country will continue to proceed as usual.

Constitutional reforms

Erdogan also commented on the constitutional reforms approved in the April referendum, highlighting the need for the parliament to make relevant adjustment laws.

The constitutional changes were passed by the parliament in an 18-article bill in January, and then approved in a referendum on April 16.

The changes hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president and eliminate the post of prime minister, and also allow the president to retain ties to a political party.

Other changes include lowering the minimum age for parliamentary candidates to 18 and increasing the number of deputies to 600.

The General Assembly is set to reconvene on Tuesday to continue its legislative work after political parties' parliamentary group meetings.

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