Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in Baghdad and Irbil on Wednesday trying to draw attention to Turkey's deep objections to a threatened referendum for independence by Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Of course his strong tone pleased Baghdad, which vehemently objects to the referendum as unconstitutional and a fatal threat to Iraq's territorial integrity. Çavuşoğlu said in Baghdad that Turkey rejects the referendum and calls on Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to "cancel" the move scheduled for Sept. 25.
Turkey says it does not want such a referendum and has served notice to all the interested parties while others, like the Americans, regard the referendum as untimely and bad idea for the time being, but leave the door open for any future referendums on the issue.
In Irbil, Çavuşoğlu repeated Turkey's strong objections over and over again, thus telling the Kurdish public that claims that Ankara supports the referendum behind closed doors but does not say this publicly is completely false.
The strong Goran movement in Suleymaniyah, which is clearly a formidable rival to Barzani, has said he rejects the referendum and will have nothing to do with it thus closing the doors on the KRG administration. Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also has serious misgivings about the referendum, but does not want to come out as strongly as Goran and seems to be towing the line set by Barzani.
Following Çavuşoğlu's visit Barzani has one again stated that he is adamant and set to hold the referendum not only in Irbil, Dohuk and Suleymaniyah but also in disputed areas like oil-rich Kirkuk and in the environs of Mosul as well as some other small enclaves. According to a statement from Barzani's office, the Kurdish leader told Çavuşoğlu that "Kurdistan" lost hope in Iraq and therefore they can become "two good neighbors" following the referendum.
Now with Barzani raising the stakes, it is time those who oppose this move should tell him what to expect "the day after."
It is obvious that Turkey will not and should not impose a food ban or a ban on vital consumer goods on the KRG if the Kurds of Iraq approve independence at the referendum.
Asked after their meeting about speculation, Turkey may impose a blockade on the KRG in response to the referendum, Çavuşoğlu told journalists that trade relations between the two have no connection with the referendum.
"The decision of the referendum for a separation is not a good idea. This is nothing to do with our trade with this region," Çavuşoğlu said. "We have been supporting the KRG and our Kurdish brothers and sisters here in Iraq as well as others. So we have not put any condition nor we do want to come to this stage," he continued.
No, Turkey does not want the issue "to come to this stage," but it has to spell out to the KRG and the people living in this area what they will miss "the day after."