Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Tuesday that the legitimacy of its push for independence in the referendum in northern Iraq could not be "saved" even by the "waving of Israeli flags."
Reiterated that his country is considering all options, ranging from military intervention to economic sanctions against Iraq's Kurdish region, Erdogan derided the Kurds for their embracing of Israel, who he said was the only country to support the KRG's ambitions.
“Who will recognize your independence? Israel. The world is not about Israel. You should know that the waving of Israeli flags there will not save you,” he said.
“If the only support for the KRG’s referendum is given by Israel and if the (outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) PKK starts celebrating even before the polls close then there can be neither innocence nor legitimacy.” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president added he hopes the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will abandon aims of creating a separate state and not force Turkey into enforcing sanctions.
"I hope the northern Iraqi administration gathers itself together and abandons this adventure with a dark ending," Erdogan said, adding that the landlocked Iraqi Kurdish region would not be able to survive without Turkey's support in helping export its oil.
"The moment we shut the valve it's finished for them," Erdogan said, referring to a pipeline through Turkey.
Erdogan has warned that all military and economic measures would be considered against the KRG for the referendum, which he described as “betrayal to Turkey.”
Top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, also stepped up the pressure as the Iraqi government ruled out talks on possible secession for Kurdish-held northern Iraq and Turkey threatened sanctions, denouncing the referendum for Kurdish independence as a "Zionist plot."
"The Iraqi people won't stand silent. Iran and Turkey and other regional countries won't stand silent and will stand against this abhorrent deviation," Velayati was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency. "The Muslim nations will not allow the creation of a second Israel."
Velayati did not say what action Iran had in mind. However, the country's media have compared the Kurds' desire for a homeland with the 1948 creation of Israel. The Islamic republic regards the Jewish state as its greatest enemy along with the United States.
For the Iranian state the referendum of the Kurds' demand for state of their own was a "Zionist plot" aimed at bringing instability to the region.
"This view that a wandering scattered nation would only find peace if they find a homeland, was the core philosophy for creation of Israel," wrote the Kayhan, a hardline newspaper closely associated with Supreme Leader.
Initial referendum results indicated 72 percent of eligible voters had taken part and an overwhelming majority, possibly over 90 percent, had said "yes", Kurdish TV channel Rudaw said. Final results are expected by Wednesday.
Israel has backed Kurdish independence. It has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with Kurds since the 1960s, viewing the minority as a buffer against shared adversaries.