Turkey to deploy troops in Iraq and Syria
ISTANBUL/BAGHDAD – Turkey said on Saturday it would take security and other steps in response to a planned independence referendum in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region that it called a “terrible mistake”, as a Kurdish delegation was in Baghdad for talks on the crisis.
The Turkish parliament was to convene later on Saturday to vote on extending a mandate that authorizes Turkish troop deployments to Iraq and Syria and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim alluded to possible military moves on Saturday.
The United States and other Western powers have also urged authorities in the semi-autonomous Iraqi region to cancel the vote planned for Monday. They say the move by the oil-producing Kurdish area distracts from the fight against Islamic State.
In Iraq, a Kurdistan regional government delegation arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for talks with Iraqi government in a bid to defuse tensions, but a senior Kurdish official said the vote was going ahead.
“The delegation will discuss the referendum but the referendum is still happening,” Hoshiyar Zebari, a top adviser to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, told Reuters.
Asked if a cross-border operation was among the options, the Turkish premier told reporters: “Naturally, it is a question of timing as to when security, economic and security options are implemented. Developing conditions will determine that.”
Ankara, which has NATO’s second-largest army, warned on Friday the Iraqi vote would threaten security and force it to slap sanctions on a neighbor and trading partner, although it did not specify what measures it might take. [L5N1M321K]
Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region and fighting a Kurdish insurgency on its soil, has warned that any break-up of neighboring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict. The Kurdish region exports oil through Turkey.