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Turkey Issues Final Call to Iraqi Kurds to Cancel Independence Vote

  • Dorian Jones

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim speaks to the media in Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 22, 2017.

Turkey's government will never accept a separate Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq and won't refrain from taking steps to prevent it, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday.

Yildirim said Monday's independence vote by Iraqi Kurds is an issue of Turkey's national security.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chaired a meeting Friday of Turkey's National Security Council, which called for the referendum to be canceled. Erdogan branded the vote as "illegal and unacceptable." He said Turkey reserved its rights under international and bilateral agreements to act against it.

Ankara fears such a referendum could fuel secessionist demands within its own large restive Kurdish minority.

The security council meeting gave no further details on possible sanctions against the Iraqi Kurds if the vote takes place; however, Turkish armed forces are continuing to hold military exercises on the Iraqi Kurdish border.

Yildirim called it a calamity that the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk was included in the independence vote. Kirkuk is considered by many Kurds as their symbolic capital, but the city has large populations of ethnic Turks and Arabs, along with Kurds. Ankara previously has vowed to protect the interests of ethnic Turks, especially if violence follows the vote.

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