Kurdistan Independence Referendum To Destabilize Region, Turkey Warns

Kurdistan, Iraq, referendum, independence, Turkey, instability, independence referendum, Falah Mustafa, Kurdistan referendum
Students display Kurdistan flags at a pro-independence rally in front of University of Cihan in Erbil, Kurdistan's regional capital.

As Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is finalizing its plans for an independence referendum in September, Turkey expressed its strongest objection over the move that Ankara considers destabilizing.

On Tuesday, Turkish Government Spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters in Ankara that “the referendum would contribute to instability in the region.”

He also noted that the Kurdish insistence on holding the referendum violates the Iraqi constitution.

Ankara strongly believes that the referendum conducted by the Iraqi Kurds will have an impact on the Kurds in Turkey, who have been subject to unrelenting political crackdown due to escalated fight between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the southeast.

To deter Kurds from the move, Ankara said last week that energy cooperation with Iraqi Kurdistan would be hobbled.

However, the Iraqi Kurds are determined to proceed with the referendum scheduled to take place on September 25.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the Kurds in Iraq to delay the vote. Washington has been mindful of potential ramifications of the event, which can lead to the outbreak of regional tensions and geopolitical tug-of-war.

The U.S. State Department recently voiced concern that the referendum would “distract from more urgent tasks” such as fighting the Islamic State.

“On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President [Barzani] stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future,” the KRG said in a statement that appeared to be a public dismissal of the American request.

The Kurds now have an opportunity to decide their future, given rapid alteration of territorial map in both Iraq and northern Syria, developments that swung the pendulum in favor of Kurds.

Kurdish militia YPG and its political wing PYD also expressed strong political aspirations for a statelet in northern Syria, fueling Turkey’s anxiety.

Ankara has been locked in a protracted fight against insurgency by the domestic militant organization, PKK, for more than three decades. The PYD’s affiliation with PKK is an enough prerequisite for Turkey to regard it as a terrorist organization. This approach created points of discord between Ankara and its NATO allies, such as the U.S. and EU.