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Erdogan warns of sanctions over Kurds' independence bid

Turkish leader says Ankara is mulling sanctions if Iraq's Kurdistan region proceeds with September 25 referendum.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that his government will consider imposing sanctions on northern Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan over its planned independence referendum.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) plans to hold the referendum on support for independence on September 25 in three governorates that make up the region, and in disputed areas controlled by Kurdish forces, but which are claimed by Baghdad.

The plebiscite has alarmed neighbouring Turkey which has a large Kurdish minority. Iran and Syria also worry that the vote will encourage secessionist ideas among their own Kurdish minorities.

"Steps such as demands for independence that can cause new crises and conflicts in the region must be avoided," Erdogan told UN members during his address to the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

He told reporters later that Turkey's national Security Council and cabinet will discuss on Friday "what kind of sanctions we can impose, or if we will".


The Iraqi government is opposed to the poll, claiming it would affect the war against ISIL, cause instability and violate the Iraqi Constitution.

Turkey, the US, Iran and the UN have all backed Baghdad in speaking out against the referendum.

READ MORE: UN's Guterres urges Kurds in Iraq to scrap referendum

Last week, Iraqi members of parliament voted against the referendum and called on the Baghdad government to negotiate with the KRG.

On Monday, Iraq's Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the planned vote following a review of multiple "requests to stop the referendum".


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday called on Kurds to scrap the vote after Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani asked Baghdad for a deal good enough to convince him to forgo the vote.

READ MORE: Iraqi army 'to intervene' if Kurds' referendum escalates

"Barzani is playing with fire," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Tuesday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

"The right thing is to give up playing with this fire, submit to common sense, and cancel the referendum," he added.

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