Only Israel supports KRG referendum in northern Iraq, Erdoğan says
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made remarkable statements on Saturday over independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdish region at a rally in Turkey's Erzurum province. He said in his speech that only Israel supported KRG referendum in Northern Iraq, and adding that wanderıng with Israeli flags made them upset.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Saturday that Turkey was the biggest supporter of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the past, adding that with the KRG's latest unlawful independence referendum Turkey was ready to take necessary steps.
Erdoğan said on Saturday Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price for an independence referendum which was widely opposed by foreign Powers.
Addressing a crowd in eastern Erzurum province gathered for a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the president said seeing people celebrate the KRG vote with Israeli flags upset Turkey.
Despite opposition from Turkey, Iraq, Iran and the U.S., KRG leader Masoud Barzani insisted to go ahead with Monday's controversial independence referendum, which was only supported by Israel.
"They are not forming an independent state, they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in", Erdoğan told members of his ruling AK Party in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum.
"We don't regret what we did in the past. But since the conditions are changed and the Kurdish Regional Government, to which we provided all support, took steps against us, it would pay the price," he said.
Erdoğan said the rights of Arabs and Turkmens were of outmost importance, and stressed that the vote ignored the wishes of these minorities in the region.
The president underlined that that Turkey is in close contact with neighboring states, including Iran and the Iraqi central government, and ready for negative developments in the region.
"We cannot accept a referendum that was carried out in an atmosphere where people were forced to immigrate," Erdoğan said, adding that the KRG's aim to establish an independent state would only lead to a "bleeding wound."
Turkey has repeatedly threatened to impose economic sanction, effectively cutting their main access to international markets, and has held joint military exercises with Iraqi troops on the border.
However, after Erdogan said that Iraqi Kurds would go hungry if Ankara halted the cross-border flow of trucks and oil, it has said that any measures it took would not target civilians and instead focus on those who organised the referendum.
Iraq's Defence Ministry said on Friday it plans to take control of the borders of the autonomous Kurdistan region in coordination with Iran and Turkey.
Monday's referendum faced opposition from most international actors and led regional powers to take economic and military measures.
Several air carriers, including the Turkish Airlines, halted flights to and from northern Iraq's Kurdish region.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) began a military drill in the region around the border town of Silopi with 100 military vehicles, which continued with reinforcements this weekend and was later joined by central Iraqi forces.
Iraq's central government previously threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence and announced Saturday that Iraqi forces would also hold joint military exercises with Iran's Revolutionary Guard near their border.