ISTANBUL: Turkey made a direct appeal to the president of the Iraqi Kurdish region on Friday, urging him to cancel an independence referendum planned for Monday and saying that Ankara viewed the vote as illegal and unacceptable.
In a statement, Turkey’s National Security Council called on Massoud 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.
The statement followed a meeting of the council, which was chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan is also due to hold a cabinet meeting later on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the referendum was a matter of national security for Turkey and Ankara would never accept a change of status in Iraq or Syria.
“An action that will change the status in Syria and Iraq is an unacceptable result for Turkey, and we will do what is necessary,” Yildirim said.
Erdogan has threatened to impose sanctions against Kurdish northern Iraq, saying the government would consider counter-measures against the vote at a cabinet meeting later on Friday.
The parliament will convene for an extraordinary meeting on Saturday in order to discuss policy on Iraq.
Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region and fighting a Kurdish insurgency, has warned that any breakup of neighbouring 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.