Turkey threatens sanctions over Kurdish independence vote

ANKARA: Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to impose sanctions against Kurdish northern Iraq over a planned independence vote, piling economic pressure on Kurdish authorities after Turkish troops deployed near the main commercial border crossing.
Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, has warned that any breakup of neighbouring Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict, and is due to prepare a formal response on Friday, three days before the referendum.
Erdogan said the Turkish cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara’s options.
They will “put forward their own stance on what kind of sanctions we can impose, or if we will,” he told reporters in New York, according to Anadolu news agency.
“But these will not be ordinary,” Erdogan said.
Iraqi Kurdish authorities have defied 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 IS.
On Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing, which military sources said was due to last until September 26, a day after the planned referendum.
Around 100 tanks and military vehicles, backed by rocket launchers and radar, deployed in open farmlands near the frontier, guns pointed south towards the Kurdish mountains.
The military buildup hit the Turkish lira, which weakened on Tuesday beyond 3.500 to the dollar, before recovering on Wednesday to around 3.465.
But it has so far had little impact on lines of trucks queuing to cross into territory controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government in north Iraq.
Turkey, for years the KRG’s main link to the outside world, has built strong trade ties with the semi-autonomous region which exports hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day through Turkey to international markets.
Erdogan did not spell out what sanctions Turkey might be considering, but truck drivers waiting at Habur on Wednesday said they feared for their livelihoods if cross-border trade, crucial to the local economy, dries up.
“I have four kids, I am 35-years-old, and there is neither a job nor a factory in the region,” said tanker driver Abdurrahman Yakti, who carries crude oil from Iraq to Turkey’s Iskenderun Rafinery in the southeastern province of Hatay.
— Reuters