Turkey will gradually close its border gates to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq and end the oil flow through it in cooperation with Baghdad and Tehran, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Oct. 12.
“We will materialize this step by step with Baghdad and Tehran,” Kalın said at a press meeting in Ankara.
The Massoud Barzani administration has a duty here, it is to prevent this from happening, he added.
“If they do their task, there will be no need for such steps, but if they insist on this mistake, they should know that there will be consequences,” he said, referring to a call made by the three countries to the KRG to withdraw its independence bid.
Turkey does not have the intention to “punish Iraqi Kurds,” Kalın said.
“We are against the attempt to divide [Iraq]. We would still oppose to it if such an independence attempt came from another group within Iraq. Someone could take this agenda to Syria, too, and we would oppose that as well,” the spokesperson added.
Iraqi government forces and Iranian-trained Iraqi paramilitaries are “preparing a major attack” on Kurdish forces in the oil-rich region of Kirkuk and near Mosul in northern Iraq, the KRG said on Oct. 11, a claim refuted by Baghdad.
“We’re receiving dangerous messages that Iraqi forces, including Popular Mobilisation and Federal Police, are preparing a major attack on Kurdistan,” said the KRG’s Security Council in a tweet confirmed by a Kurdish official.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on Oct. 12 that the Iraqi army would not be used against the Kurdish people.
“We won’t use the army against the people and we won’t wage a war against the Kurds,” al-Abadi said in televised comments broadcast on Iraqi state television.
The Iraqi armed forces are devoted exclusively to providing public security inside Iraq and protecting the country from foreign threats, he added.
“It is our responsibility to safeguard Iraq’s unity,” he stressed.
Tension has severely mounted between Baghdad and the KRG since Sept. 25, when locals in KRG-controlled areas voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Baghdad.
The KRG, meanwhile, is willing to hold talks with the Iraqi government about a dispute over KRG-controlled airports, border posts and banks, it said in a statement.
The central Iraqi government has taken measures to isolate the Kurdistan region.