Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be heading back to Ankara to convene a meeting of the National Security Council tomorrow to discuss “sanctions” against Iraq’s Kurdish region if it goes ahead with its referendum on independence.
Speaking in New York at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum yesterday he warned that Turkey will be taking measures unless the region’s president Masoud Barzani “stops this mistake”.
“We have always defended the territorial integrity of Iraq and have warned Mr Barzani not to make this mistake,” he said.
He refused to expand on the types of sanctions that are possible, repeatedly referred to the referendum on September 25 as "a mistake".
Mr Erdogan said that Mr Barzani is "isolating himself" as "every country except Israel is against this referendum". All of Iraq’s neighbouring countries, in addition to the US and EU, have declared their opposition to the referendum which threatens Iraq’s territorial integrity and could lead to armed clashes.
On Syria, Mr Erdogan seems to have found common ground with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after years of tensions between the two. While Mr Erdogan repeated his rejection of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule in Damascus, he said there could be an opportunity to work with Moscow to support ‘de-escalation zones’. While Turkish soldiers continue to be present in Syria, Mr Erdogan said troops will stay there "depending on the situation on the ground". He stated that he will be "having dinner" with Mr Putin next Thursday to discuss military and political developments in Syria. Mr Erdogan also spoke at length on ties with Russia, saying that flights to Moscow take 2 hours from Turkey, while "Russia will become our number one tourism partners – exceeding Germany" this year.
During the session at the forum yesterday, Mr Erdogan also took questions related to his domestic policies, including the arrest of journalists. He denied that those arrested are journalists, saying "these people are not journalists", accusing some of the detained of being "terrorists, burglars and spies". He also renewed his calls to the US to extradite preacher Fethullah Gulen, who continues to live in Pennsylvania, saying "we need to be within the law".