Turkey’s Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli has warned that next week’s Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq could pose a major risk. He said Ankara would take “every step” needed to thwart any similar steps in its mainly Kurdish southeast. On September 19, Turkish troops dug in on the southern border and turned their weapons towards Kurdish-run northern Iraq.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli has warned that next week’s Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq could pose a major risk. He said Ankara would take “every step” needed to thwart any similar steps in its mainly Kurdish southeast.

On September 19, Turkish troops dug in on the southern border and turned their weapons towards Kurdish-run northern Iraq.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, tanks and rocket launchers mounted on armoured vehicles faced the Iraqi frontier, about 2km away. Mechanical diggers tore up agricultural fields for the army to set up positions in the flat, dry farmlands.

The military drill, launched without warning on September 18, is due to last until September 26, Turkish military sources said. This is one day after the planned referendum.

A Reuters reporter saw armoured vehicles carrying heavy weaponry and soldiers taking positions in specially dug areas, their weapons directed across the border. A generator and satellite dish could be seen at one location.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish authorities are defying growing international pressure to call off the vote, which Iraq’s neighbours fear will fuel unrest among their own Kurdish populations. Western allies say it could detract from the fight against Islamic State.

“A change that will mean the violation of Iraq’s territorial integrity poses a major risk for Turkey,” Canikli said. “The disruption of Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity will ignite a bigger, global conflict with an unseen end.”

According to Reuters, Kurds in north Syria, like those in Iraq, have capitalised on the turmoil in both countries to consolidate a degree of autonomy. Washington has supported Syrian Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State, despite Turkish protests.

However, the US and other Western countries have voiced concerns and asked Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to call off the vote, citing fears the referendum could distract attention from the fight against Islamic State militants.

Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ordered Barzani to suspend the vote and approved Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s demand to consider “the breakaway of any region or province from Iraq as unconstitutional”, his office said on September 18.

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/turkey-warns-global-conflict-iraq-syria-break/

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