Turkey Opposes Independence for Iraq's Kurds
The Turkish government said on Monday that it was against Iraq's Kurdistan region splitting away from Baghdad, after Sunni terrorists seized a vast swath of territory in Turkey's conflict-torn neighbor.
"The government is very closely monitoring the developments in Iraq," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was quoted by AFP as having told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
"The entire world knows our official view: let Iraq not be split up, let guns not be directed against one another, let people not shed each other's blood, let outside powers ... pull their hands out of Iraq and let Iraq proceed on its path as an integrated society," he added.
Jihadist rebels from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on Sunday declared a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria and renamed the group “Islamic State”.
The group’s actions in Iraq have alarmed countries in the region and sparked calls for Kurdish autonomy in Iraq to counter the radical Islamist threat.
Arinc’s comments follow those of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday called for independence for Iraq's Kurdistan region, where Kurdish peshmerga security forces have mobilized to fight against ISIS.
Turkey, which has its own Kurdish minority, has traditionally been vehemently opposed to the notion of Kurdish independence.
Yet in recent years, Turkey has built up strong trade ties with Iraq's Kurdistan region and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved to satisfy some of the demands of Kurds in Turkey.
In May, Turkey began exporting oil supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan to international markets, drawing the ire of the central government in Baghdad.
Recent comments to the Financial Times made by Huseyin Celik, spokesman for Turkey's ruling AKP party, had suggested that Ankara could tolerate an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
Arinc brushed away Netanyahu’s remarks and insisted that Ankara was committed to the territorial integrity of Iraq.
"There is no doubt that Netanyahu represents his government ... but the fact that he made this comment does not mean that it is going to come true. There is a state in Iraq with its constitution," said Arinc, according to AFP.