News Analysis: Turkey wants Iraqi Kurds to step back from independence bid

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-05 05:13:04|Editor: An
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Soldier ride armoured vehicles near the Habur crossing gate between Turkey and Iraq during a military drill on September 27, 2017 in the Silopi district, southeast Turkey. (AFP Photo)

ANKARA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Turkey toned down its harsh rhetoric against Iraqi Kurds for an independence referendum and displays carrot and stick approach for convincing the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to step back from separatist actions.

Turkish leadership had a menacing style on the heels of the referendum held on Sept. 25, but there is an obvious change of style recently in given messages to the Iraqi Kurds, according to daily Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, who identified new rhetoric as "kindly but firmly."

Turkish government ratcheted up pressure on the Kurdish region in the period preceding the referendum and vowed to take any political, economic and military sanctions to counteract its consequences.

Moreover, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said the Iraqi Kurds "could go hungry" as a result of the punitive measures. He threatened to cut off the pipeline that carries oil from northern Iraq to the outside world which is a vital revenue for the KRG.

Recognizing the vote as unacceptable and unlawful, he has accused the head of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region of "treachery."

"If (the KRG President Massoud) Barzani and the Kurdish Regional Government do not go back on this mistake as soon as possible, they will go down in history with the shame of having dragged the region into an ethnic and sectarian war," Erdogan warned.

Ankara sees the vote as a threat to its national security and fears it will ignite separatism among its over-13-million Kurdish population.

Yet, so far Turkey's punitive measures have not gone beyond suspending flights to Iraqi Kurdish region, declaring the representative of Barzani as "persona non grata," and held a symbolic military exercise in the border with participation of Iraqi soldiers.

However, in his speech addressing the parliamentarians for new legislative on Sunday, the Turkish president eased his strong rhetoric.

"When the northern Iraq's administration demonstrates its virtue of stepping back wrongdoing, Turkey, as a state and its nation, will continue to be stand with our brothers and sisters," Erdogan stated.

On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu followed him urging the Iraqi Kurds "to take a step back" after the referendum. He said that "it is not too late" and Ankara "could restore ties" if the process for independence is halted.

Selvi points at the fact that Turkey's new rhetoric began to separate the government's reaction to Barzani and to the Kurdish people, citing to Erdogan's speech on Saturday. "This issue has nothing to do with the Kurdish people in northern Iraq," the president stated.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has significant Kurdish voters in Turkey, Selvi said, recalling "serious Kurdish question" of the country.

"One should avoid disappointing our Kurdish citizens while reacting against Barzani's independence referendum," Selvi said.

Selvi, who is known as a journalist that reaches to insight of the AKP policies, said President Erdogan realized this fact as he had meetings with actors that could reflect the pulse of Turkey's Kurdish majority regions. Those actors have warned the president for his harsh rhetoric, he notes.

On the other hand, the tension on the Turkish government over the referendum eased after observing lack of support for Iraqi Kurds from international actors, and after effective sanctions imposed by the regional countries, Selvi said.