Turkey Wants Kurdistan Region to Drop Referendum, Avoid Sanctions

Turkey Wants Kurdistan Region to Drop Referendum, Avoid Sanctions

Turkey appealed on Saturday (September 23) to the Kurdistan Region to drop plans for an upcoming independence referendum planned for Monday (September 25), saying the move would be a threat to Turkish security and Ankara would be forced to implement sanctions.

Turkey's government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told a news conference following a cabinet meeting chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan that "all options were on the table" regarding the response to the referendum, but stopped short of giving any details about what those could entail.

Earlier, Turkey's National Security Council called on Masoud Barzani to stop the referendum, saying it retained the rights defined in bilateral and international agreements if the vote were held. It did not elaborate on the nature of those rights.

Erdogan had chaired both of those meetings and said the parliament would convene on Saturday (September 23) to discuss the response to the referendum.

Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region and fighting a Kurdish insurgency, has warned that any breakup of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict.

On Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing, which military sources said was due to last until Sept. 26, a day after the planned referendum.

Turkey, the United States and other Western powers have advised Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region to cancel the vote, worrying that tensions between Baghdad and Erbil would distract from the war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Kurds are set to hold the referendum on September 25 but Baghdad opposes it, with lawmakers voting to reject it. Iraq's neighbors, Turkey, Iran and Syria, also oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.