Turkish defense minister urges KRG to call off poll

KRG's planned referendum poses serious threat to Turkey's national security, says Nurettin Canikli

Anadolu Agency

Turkey’s national defense minister on Saturday called on northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to cancel its independence referendum planned for early next week.

Addressing parliament on a motion to extend the government mandate to deploy troops in Iraq and Syria, Nurettin Canikli signaled that he supports a peaceful resolution of the disputes between the KRG and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Canikli warned of a dangerous convergence between global powers in Syria. "Such kinds of danger can grow more visible after the referendum,” he cautioned.

Canikli added that the referendum poses a serious threat to Turkey's national security, and it "would be declared null and void for us."

"We call once again for the cancellation of the referendum and giving up adventurism," said Canikli.

"I want to say once again that we, as Turkey, will support a solution within the Iraqi Constitution."

Parliament is debating a motion to allow the extension of Turkey’s authority to launch cross-border military operations in northern Iraq and Syria for another year.

The debate follows the Kurdish Regional Government's refusal to cancel the planned independence referendum, set for Monday, Sept. 25.

MHP: Anything for Turkey

The deputy parliamentary group chairman of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said that his party's attitude on the referendum is clear.

"With this motion we say uncategorically that we’re not joking about suddenly coming at night, on not playing games, and we can afford anything at all for the survival of Turkey," said Erkan Akcay.

He added: "The pirate referendum which is illegal and unacceptable should be cancelled before it is too late."

The MHP's parliamentary group, as announced beforehand, supported the motion in the extraordinary parliamentary session.

Ozturk Yilmaz, the deputy chair of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), also announced that his party would support the motion.

Saying that the referendum lacks international legitimacy, Yilmaz called on KRG President Masoud Barzani to cancel it.

Yilmaz said that the referendum would endanger security in the region, adding, "Israel wants to use Barzani against Iran."

He said: "We want the referendum to be cancelled and support the motion not for war but for peace in the region."

‘Referendum is against Iraqi Constitution’

Volkan Bozkir, an Istanbul deputy for the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said that the planned referendum violates Iraq’s Constitution.

"When the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government [decided they] would hold the referendum, they were taking a move against the Iraqi Constitution," said Bozkir, also a former EU minister.

Bozkir added: "We cannot continue our relations as they were before with an administration that moves against the Iraqi Constitution."

The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad -- vote whether to secede from Iraq.

Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.

Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.

Barzani has said a Yes vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.