ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s government will never accept a separate Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq and won’t refrain from taking steps to prevent it, the Turkish prime minister said Friday.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim again called on Iraqi Kurdish leaders to abandon plans for a referendum on independence, saying it wasn’t too late for them to turn away “from this adventure.”
“This decision for a referendum and the realization of this referendum is a matter of Turkish national security,” Yildirim said. “Turkey is determined — and wouldn’t hesitate to use its rights emanating from international agreements and bilateral agreements where matters of national security are concerned.”
“A change to the existing statuses of Syria or Iraq would be a result that we would never accept and would do the necessary against within our rights,” he said.
Yildirim spoke to reporters hours before Turkey’s political and military leaders met to consider possible sanctions and other measures against Iraq’s Kurdish region if it goes ahead with the vote on Monday.
A statement issued at the end of a three-hour long meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded the planned referendum as “illegal and unacceptable.” It said Turkey reserved its rights under international and bilateral agreements to act against it.
Speaking at the end of a Cabinet meeting that convened immediately after the security council, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the government had mulled over all possible steps Turkey can take if the referendum goes ahead and had determined a time-frame to put them into action. He would not say what the measures were.
Turkey was making “final” appeal to the Iraq’s Kurdish region to “act with good sense,” Bozdag said, adding that Ankara would not accept a postponement of the vote either.
“This referendum must be canceled once and for all without the possibility of it recurring,” he said.
Ankara has forged close economic ties to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region but strongly opposes moves toward Kurdish independence. Turkey has a large ethnic Kurdish population and is battling a Kurdish insurgency on its own territory.
This week, the Turkish military launched previously unannounced military exercises near the border with Iraq in an apparent warning to Iraq’s Kurds.
Turkey’s parliament will also hold an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss the planned Kurdish referendum and also vote to extend a mandate that allows Turkey’s military to intervene in Syria and Iraq.
Yildirim said the mandate to be voted on Saturday gives the military “to intervene on all kinds of developments that are against our country and threaten our national security.”
“It gives the right to send troops,” he added.