"The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] is expecting international support with their declaration of independence following the Sept. 25 referendum. However, it is apparent that no country, including Turkey, will recognize the KRG's declaration of independence," deputy Directorate General for Relations with Iraq Ali Onaner said yesterday in Ankara.
Speaking at a panel on Turkish-Iraqi relations hosted by the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), Onaner said that Turkey considers the KRG's independence referendum "a destabilizing factor," stressing that Ankara has regularly shared its concerns regarding independence: "We have clearly expressed to KRG officials that Turkey considers the territorial integrity of Iraq with utmost importance. The KRG's attempt to claim independence would only fuel further regional tensions," he said. The deputy directorate general went on to say, "The KRG's decision to declare independence will have negative consequences on the entire region, especially for the Kurds in Iraq," he added.
Onaner also emphasized that no country, including Turkey, will acknowledge the KRG's sovereignty. "No one will recognize the KRG's independence in the foreseeable future," he said. "While the declaration itself is easy, gaining recognition from other countries is the difficult and most important issue. So far, we have not seen any country that is willing to recognize any declaration for KRG independence," he concluded.
KRG President Masoud Barzani announced on June 7 the decision to hold a referendum. Since then, every neighboring country - Turkey, Iran and Iraq - have discouraged the KRG from holding an independence vote. Moreover, the U.N, the EU, the U.S, Russia and the U.K. have also criticized the KRG's announcement for the referendum on independence, saying that the move will further intensify regional conflicts and will also harm efforts to fight Daesh in the region.
President Erdoğan: ‘KRG will regret declaring independence'Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan touched upon the upcoming independence referendum in Northern Iraq during an interview with France 24 on July 5. The president said, "The KRG's decision to hold an independence referendum is not the right way to go. They will regret it."
Ankara has reiterated its opposing stance regarding the proposed KRG referendum, arguing that Iraq's territorial integrity must be protected to avoid further turmoil in the region. On numerous occasions, President Erdoğan has criticized the KRG's decision to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, saying that the move has "deeply saddened" Ankara.
Speaking at the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting in Parliament, Erdoğan said, "Stepping on Northern Iraq's independence is a threat to Iraq's territorial integrity and it is wrong. We wish this step had been taken through diplomatic measures. We have always been in favor of Iraq's territorial integrity."
Iraq's Kurdish region, with a population of about 5 million, already enjoys a high degree of autonomy, including its own parliament and armed forces. However, relations with the central government in Baghdad have nosedived in recent years over a range of issues, including the sharing of oil revenues and the control of some areas that are technically part of the federation of Iraq but have come under Kurdish control since 2014 during the war against Daesh.
Iraqi Kurdistan was created in 1970 after an agreement with the Iraqi government, putting years of fighting to an end. Later in 2005, it gained autonomous governance status in the constitution but is still considered a part of Iraq.