Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

2017-09-23 20:37
Turkish Prime Minister and the leader of Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and Development Party Binali Yildirim delivers a speech during a meeting of the AK Party at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. (Adem Altan, AFP)

Turkish Prime Minister and the leader of Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and Development Party Binali Yildirim delivers a speech during a meeting of the AK Party at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. (Adem Altan, AFP)

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Ankara - Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned on Saturday that Ankara's actions in response to a controversial independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region would have "economic and security dimensions".

"The steps will be taken in close co-operation with Iraq, Iran and other neighbouring countries. These measures will have diplomatic, political, economic and security dimensions," he told reporters in the central Turkish province of Kirsehir.

When asked whether a cross-border operation was among the options, Yildirim said "naturally" but "it is a question of timing as to when the security, economic and political options will be applied".

He added: "This will be determined by developing conditions."

Turkey has repeatedly voiced opposition to the Kurdistan Regional Government's non-binding independence vote on September 25, urging it to cancel the poll.

Separatist aspirations

Ankara fears the vote could stoke separatist aspirations among its own sizeable Kurdish minority as it continues to fight Kurdish militants in its southeast.

Yildirim was speaking before the Turkish parliament holds an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss the extension of an existing mandate to use Turkish troops abroad in Syria and Iraq.

The mandate was first approved by parliament in October 2014 and has been renewed every year, allowing military action in Turkey's two southern neighbours against Islamic State extremists and other groups deemed by Ankara to be terror organisations.

Turkey launched a military drill featuring tanks close to the Iraqi border last week, and on Saturday the Turkish armed forces said the "second phase of the military exercise continued with the participation of additional troops".

Despite opposition from Turkey, Iraq and Iran as well as the US, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani insisted on Friday that the referendum would go ahead.

Iraq's chief of staff General Othman al-Ghanimi arrived in Ankara earlier for talks with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on the poll as well as the fight against terrorism, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The top Turkish general is due to pay a visit to his Iranian counterpart before Erdogan visits Tehran on October 4, Hurriyet said, but did not say when Akar would go.

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