Posts Tagged ‘Kurdish’

Turkey-Iran operation against Kurd rebels always possible: Erdogan

August 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A Turkish commando patrols on a mountain near the border with Iraq
ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants was “always on the agenda”, a week after Tehran’s top armed forces commander visited Ankara for rare talks.

Turkey has battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for decades, while the Iranian security forces have also fought its affiliate, the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). Both groups have rear bases in neighbouring Iraq.

“It is always on the agenda to carry out a joint operation with Iran against those terror organisations which pose a threat,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before a trip to Jordan.

His comments came after Iran’s Armed Forces chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week, with the two sides discussing ways to cooperate against the militants.

During the visit, Iran made a “surprise proposal” to Ankara to launch a joint operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq’s Kandil and Sinjar regions, the Turkish newspaper Turkiye reported on its front page on Monday.

The newspaper claimed the proposal sparked surprise in Ankara because Turkish officials had long complained that Tehran had long left Turkey alone in its fight against the PKK’s cadres, financial structuring and political activities.

Erdogan confirmed that the two countries’ military chiefs discussed how to work against Kurdish militants.

“The work will continue because you know that the PKK terror organisation has a foot in Iran,” he said.

“They always cause harm to Iran and to us. We work because we believe that if the two countries cooperate, we can reach a conclusion in a much shorter period of time,” he said.

“I hope that we will get a successful result there,” he added, without offering further details on the timing or scope of the operation.

The PKK is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

The Turkish army has been waging a relentless campaign in the last months to eradicate the PKK, and occasionally launches air raids against the group’s bases in northern Iraq.

Ankara has long complained Iran has ignored its appeal for a joint campaign against the Kurdish insurgency.

Erdogan Says Turkey and Iran Discussing Joint Action Against Kurdish Militants

August 21, 2017

ANKARA — Turkey and Iran have discussed possible joint military action against Kurdish militant groups, after talks in Ankara last week between the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces and Turkish leaders, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters before departing on an official visit to Jordan, Erdogan also said a more effective struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Iranian affiliate, PJAK, would be possible through joint action with Iran.

“Joint action against terrorist groups that have become a threat is always on the agenda. This issue has been discussed between the two military chiefs, and I discussed more broadly how this should be carried out,” Erdogan said.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)

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Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (R) in Ankara to hold talks with a number of high-ranking Turkish officials on cooperation in settling the crises in Syria and Iraq and other issues

German police raid Facebook user for posting Kurdish YPG flag (How well is your freedom of speech protected?)

August 20, 2017

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Police in Munich have raided the home of a left-wing activist who posted the flag of Kurdish militia YPG to Facebook. The YPG has helped German intelligence and receives arms from the US military in Syria.

YPG fighters in Raqqa (Reuters/G. Tomasevic)

Germany’s conflicted attitude to Kurdish fighters was exposed once again this week when Munich police raided the home of a left-wing activist who posted the flag of the YPG on Facebook. The YPG, or People’s Protection Units, a 50,000-strong militia, is heavily involved in the war in Syria. It has helped German intelligence and is supplied with weapons by the US.

A special police commando raided a shared apartment in the Schwabing district of the Bavarian capital at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, having tracked down one of its inhabitants who had, according to their search warrant, posted an image of the triangular yellow YPG flag in March.

‘Intimidating search’

The taz newspaper identified the target of the raid as Benjamin Russ, a left-wing activist, who told the newspaper that he had posted the flag on his Facebook page in March in protest at a new ban imposed by the German Interior Ministry on all symbols related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is a leftist separatist party affiliated with the YPG that is in a long-term armed conflict with the Turkish government and is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and the US.

Infografik Karte IS kontrollierte Gebiete Syrien Irak NEU! ENG

“The police action was aimed at intimidating us,” one of the people living in the apartment told Bavarian public broadcaster BR. “The officers did not listen to our requests not to enter the other rooms. They basically besieged the whole building.” However, a spokesman for the Munich police insisted to DW that only Russ’ room had been searched, and that the other rooms were only entered for security reasons.

Russ said he had been aware that he was under investigation by the police since May, but that he was in Greece at the time of the raid, during which electronic devices were confiscated.

The friendly ‘terrorists’

Many left-wing activists have shown sympathy towards the YPG, but so has the US military, which provided air support to the group during the siege of Kobane, northern Syria, in 2015, when it fought the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) terrorist militia.

Though both the Turkish and Syrian governments criticized the US at the time, the intervention helped the YPG score an important victory over IS alongside the Free Syrian Army and the Peshmerga, another armed Kurdish group. In May 2016, US troops training Kurdish fighters in Syria were even photographed wearing YPG patches – much to the annoyance of the Turkish government.

That policy hasn’t changed under Donald Trump’s administration, which is still supplying arms to the group. The Pentagon began sending thousands of assault rifles as well as armored vehicles to the YPG in May, describing it as “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa (an IS stronghold in Syria) in the near future.”

The political paradox

The YPG has also helped the German intelligence agency, the BND – something that emerged as the strange case of Ali R. was unraveled in a Munich court. The 32-year-old former Berlin taxi driver was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2016 for membership of IS. He had apparently traveled to Syria in 2014 and joined the group in a desperate attempt to rescue his estranged wife, who had travelled to Raqqa with their three children.

According to BR, Ali R. had contacted the German authorities, and the BND had helped him and his three children to escape – with the help of a YPG driver, who had passed him on to the Peshmerga in Iraq. The German government, for its part, has supplied the Peshmerga with weapons.

These contradictions have led many German politicians to call on the government to lift its ban on displaying YPG insignia. In a statement issued on Friday, the Left party’s interior policy spokeswoman Ulla Jelpke said the government needed to “ask itself seriously what side it’s on in the fight against IS.”

http://www.dw.com/en/german-police-raid-leftist-for-posting-kurdish-ypg-flag/a-40160377

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(Reporting by Dirimcan Barut; Editing by Dominic Evans and Janet Lawrence)

A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS.

A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS near Bashiqa, Iraq, last year.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Iraq’s Kurds Might Put Off Independence Vote in Return for Concessions From Baghdad

August 20, 2017

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq — Iraq’s Kurds may consider the possibility of postponing a planned Sept. 25 referendum on independence in return for financial and political concessions from the central government in Baghdad, a senior Kurdish official said.

A Kurdish delegation is visiting Baghdad to sound out proposals from Iraqi leaders that might convince the Kurds to postpone the vote, according to Mala Bakhtiar, executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo.

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Mala Bakhtiar

The United States and other Western nations fear the vote could ignite a fresh conflict with Baghdad and possibly neighboring countries, diverting attention from the ongoing war against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson formally asked Massoud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), 10 days ago to postpone the referendum.

“What thing would Baghdad be prepared to offer to the (Kurdish) region” in return for postponing the referendum, Bakhtiar, speaking about the talks with the Shi’ite Muslim-led Baghdad ruling coalition, said in an interview.

On the economic side, Baghdad should be ready to help the Kurds overcome a financial crisis and settle debts owed by their government, he told Reuters in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.

He estimated the debt at $10 to $12 billion, about equal to the KRG’s annual budget, owed to public works contractors and civil servants and Kurdish peshmerga fighters whose salaries have not been paid in full for several months.

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Massoud Barzani

At the political level, Baghdad should commit to agree to settle the issue of disputed regions, such as the oil-rich area of Kirkuk where Arab and Turkmen communities also live.

The Kurdish delegation would then convey the proposals to Kurdish political parties to make a decision on whether they are good enough to justify a postponment of the vote, he said, insisting on the Kurdish right to hold the vote at a later date.

“We don’t accept to postpone the referendum with nothing in return and without fixing another time to hold it,” he said.

Baghdad stopped payments from the Iraqi federal budget to the KRG in 2014 after the Kurds began exporting oil independently from Baghdad, via a pipeline to Turkey.

The Kurds say they need the extra revenue to cope with increased costs incurred by the war against Islamic State and a large influx into KRG territory of displaced people.

The self-proclaimed IS “caliphate” effectively collapsed in July when U.S.-backed Iraqi forces completed the recapture of Mosul from the militants in a nine-month campaign in which Kurdish peshmerga fighters took part.

The Sunni Muslim jihadists remain, however, in control of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. The United States has pledged to maintain its support of allied forces in both countries until the militants’ total defeat.

INDEPENDENCE EYED SINCE WORLD WAR ONE

The Kurds have been seeking an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East and left Kurdish-populated territory split between modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Turkey, Iran and Syria, which together with Iraq have sizeable Kurdish communities, all oppose an independent Kurdistan. Prime Minister Abadi’s government has rejected the planned referendum as “unilateral” and unconstitutional.

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Barzani, whose father led struggles against Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s, told Reuters in July the Kurds would take responsibility for the expected “yes” outcome of the referendum, and implement the outcome through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict.

“We have to rectify the history of mistreatment of our people and those who are saying that independence is not good,” Barzani said in an interview in the KRG capital Erbil.

“Our question to them is, ‘If it’s not good for us, why is it good for you?'”.

Iraq’s majority Shi’ite population mainly lives in the south while the Kurds, largely secular Sunnis, and Sunni Arabs inhabit two swathes of the north. Central Iraq around Baghdad is mixed.

Kurdish officials have said disputed areas, including the Kirkuk region, will be covered by the referendum, to determine whether they would want to remain in Kurdistan or not.

The Kurdish peshmerga in 2014 prevented Islamic State from capturing Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, after the Iraqi army fled in the face of the militants. The peshmerga now effectively run the Kirkuk region, also claimed by Turkmen and Arabs.

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Hardline Iran-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias have threatened to expel the Kurds from this region and three other disputed areas – Sinjar, Makhmour and Khanaqin.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Turkish Political Refugees Flock to Germany, Seeking Safety

August 20, 2017

BERLIN — The Turkish judge sits in a busy cafe in a big German city. Thirteen months ago, he was a respected public servant in his homeland. Now he is heartbroken and angry over the nightmarish turn of events that brought him here.

The day after a 2016 coup attempt shook Turkey, he was blacklisted along with thousands of other judges and prosecutors. The judge smiles, sadly, as he recounts hiding at a friend’s home, hugging his crying son goodbye and paying smugglers to get him to safety.

“I’m very sad I had to leave my country,” he said, asking for his name and location to be withheld out of fear that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government might track him down. “But at least I’m safe and out of Erdogan’s reach. He cannot hurt me anymore.”

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Germany has become the top destination for political refugees from Turkey since the failed July 15, 2016 coup. Some 5,742 Turkish citizens applied for asylum here last year, more than three times as many as the year before, according to the Interior Ministry. Another 3,000 Turks have requested protection in Germany this year.

The figures include people fleeing a long-simmering conflict in the Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey, but the vast majority belong to a new class of political refugees: diplomats, civil servants, military members, academics, artists, journalists and anti-Erdogan activists accused of supporting the coup.

With many of them university-educated and part of the former elite, “their escape has already turned into a brain-drain for Turkey,” said Caner Aver, a researcher at the Center for Turkish Studies and Integration Research in Essen.

Germany is a popular destination because it’s already home to about 3.5 million people with Turkish roots and has been more welcoming of the new diaspora than other Western nations, Aver said.

“Some of the highly qualified people also try getting to the U.S. and Canada because most speak English, not German. But it’s just much harder to get there,” Aver said. “Britain has always been popular, but less so now because of Brexit.”

Comparable figures for post-coup asylum requests from Turks were not available for other countries.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey and 110,000 dismissed from their jobs for alleged links to political organizations the government has categorized as terror groups or to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara blames the Muslim cleric, a former Erdogan ally, for the coup attempt. Gulen denies the claim.

The true number of recent Turkish arrivals to Germany exceeds official asylum requests. Many fleeing academics, artists and journalists came on scholarships from German universities or political foundations. Some got in via relatives. Others entered with visas obtained before the failed coup.

The judge, a slim man in his 30s with glasses, arrived illegally by paying thousands of euros to cross from Turkey to Greece on a rubber dinghy and then continuing on to Germany.

Two other Turks in Germany — an artist who asked for anonymity, fearing repercussions for her family back home, and a journalist sentenced to prison in absentia — also spoke of ostracism and flight.

Ismail Eskin, the journalist, left Turkey just before he was sentenced to 3½ years in prison on terrorism-related charges. The 29-year-old worked for the Ozgur Gundem newspaper and the Kurdish news agency Dicle Haber Ajansi until the government shut them down shortly after the failed coup.

Eskin tried to write for different online news sites but the Turkish government blocked them too. He reluctantly decided to leave when the situation became unbearably difficult for journalists — about 160 are now in jail.

“I kept changing places to avoid being arrested, and I hid that I was a journalist,” Eskin said, chain-smoking at a Kurdish immigrants’ center. He hasn’t applied for asylum but is studying German — an acknowledgment he might be here to stay.

The judge said he “never supported any kind of coup” and had no connection to the Gulen movement but took hurriedly packed a few belongings and went to a friend’s place after learning he was among more than 2,000 judges and prosecutors being investigated.

A few hours later, police searched his apartment and took his computer.

His wife and children had been out of town during the coup attempt. While he was in hiding, his wife was told she had 15 days to move out. Friends and relatives stopped talking to her. After several months, he chose to leave.

“Since there’s no independent justice in Turkey anymore, I would have been exposed to injustice, maybe be tortured, if I had surrendered,” he said.

He sold his car and paid 8,500 euros ($9,910) to a smuggler for a December boat trip to a Greek island. From there, he flew to Italy and on to Germany. He brought his wife, son and daughter to join him a few weeks later.

The number of Turkish citizens fleeing to Germany has complicated the already tense relations between Ankara and Berlin. Accusing Germany of harboring terrorists, Turkey has demanded the extradition of escaped Turkish military officers and diplomats.

At least 221 diplomats, 280 civil servants and their families have applied for asylum, Germany says. Along with refusing to comply with the extradition requests, Germany has lowered the bar for Turkish asylum-seekers — those given permission to remain increased from 8 percent of applicants last year to more than 23 percent in the first half of 2017.

Some Turkish emigres have started building new lives in exile.

The artist from Istanbul lost her university job in graphic design before the 2016 coup because she was one of more than 1,000 academics who triggered Erdogan’s ire by signing a “declaration for peace” in Turkey.

She went to Berlin on a university scholarship in September, not long after the attempted coup. In February, she discovered she’d been named a terror group supporter and her Turkish passport was invalidated.

“Now I’m forced into exile, but that’s better than to be inside the country,” the woman in her early 30s said.

The artist said she’s doing fine in Berlin. She enrolled at a university and has had her work exhibited at a small gallery. Yet with her family still in Turkey, some days the enormity of the change weighs on her.

“In the winter I was so homesick,” she said. “I really felt like a foreigner, in my veins and in my bones.”

Assad’s March East Compounds West’s Syria Dilemma

August 17, 2017

BEIRUT/AMMAN — Syria’s war has entered a new phase as President Bashar al-Assad extends his grip in areas being captured from Islamic State, using firepower freed by Russian-backed truces in western Syria.

Backed by Russia and Iran, the government hopes to steal a march on U.S.-backed militias in the attack on Islamic State’s last major Syrian stronghold, the Deir al-Zor region that extends to the Iraqi border. Damascus hailed the capture of the town of al-Sukhna on Saturday as a big step in that direction.

The eastward march to Deir al-Zor, unthinkable two years ago when Assad seemed in danger, has underlined his ever more confident position and the dilemma facing Western governments that still want him to leave power in a negotiated transition.

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The war for western Syria, long Assad’s priority, has shifted down several gears thanks to the ceasefires, including one organised by Moscow and Washington in the southwest.

But there is no sign of these truces leading to a revival of peace talks aimed at putting Syria back together through a negotiated deal that would satisfy Assad’s opponents and help resolve a refugee crisis of historic proportions.

Instead, Assad’s face has been printed on Syrian banknotes for the first time, and his quest for outright victory suggests he may retrain his guns on rebel pockets in the west once his goals in the east are accomplished. Attacks on the last rebel stronghold near Damascus have escalated this month.

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U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to end CIA support to rebels further weakened the insurgency in western Syria, while also depriving Western policymakers of one of their few levers of pressure.

They can only watch as Iranian influence increases through a multitude of Shi’ite militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, that have been crucial to Assad’s gains and seem likely to remain in Syria for the foreseeable future, sealing Tehran’s ascendancy.

Assad’s opponents now hope his Russian allies will conclude he must be removed from power as the burden of stabilizing the country weighs and the West withholds reconstruction support.

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With hundreds of thousands of people killed and militias controlling swathes of the country, Assad’s opponents say Syria can never be stable again with him in power.

“There is little doubt that the Russians would like a political solution to the war. The war is costly for them, and the longer it lasts, the less it will appear to be a success for Putin,” said Rolf Holmboe, Research Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and former Danish Ambassador to Syria.

“But the Russians want a solution on their terms, which is one where Assad stays in power,” he said.

“The ceasefires do two things. They allow the Russians to take control of the political negotiations and look good internationally. But more importantly, they allow Assad and the Iranian-backed militias to free troops to grab the territory that Islamic State is about to lose.”

THE WAR FOR DEIR AL-ZOR

The eastwards advance has on occasion brought government forces and their Iranian-backed allies into conflict with the U.S. military and the forces it is backing in a separate campaign against Islamic State.

But the rival campaigns have mostly stayed out of each other’s way. Government forces have skirted the area where Kurdish-led militias supported by Washington are fighting Islamic State in Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition has stressed it is not seeking war with Assad.

Bisected by the Euphrates River, Deir al-Zor and its oil resources are critical to the Syrian state. The province is entirely in the hands of IS except for a government stronghold in Deir al-Zor city and a nearby air base. It is also in the crosshairs of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters on Wednesday there would be an SDF campaign towards Deir al-Zor “in the near future”, though the SDF was still deciding whether it would be delayed until Raqqa was fully captured from Islamic State.

But questions remain over whether the government and its allies, or the U.S.-backed militias, have the required manpower. IS has rebased many of its fighters and leaders in Deir al-Zor. The Syrian army is drawing on the support of local tribal militias in its advances, local tribal figures say.

A Western-backed Syrian rebel with detailed knowledge of the area said Deir al-Zor would be a tough prospect. “Deir al-Zor tribes are more intertwined with those of Iraq,” the rebel said, describing them as religious hardliners.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think-tank, said Assad hoped to regain international legitimacy through the campaign against IS.

“They believe that by doing so they can get reconstruction money, and they believe that things are going to go back to the way they were before. That’s just not going to happen,” he said.

There has been no sign that Western states are ready to rehabilitate Assad, accused by Washington of repeatedly using chemical weapons during the war, most recently in April. Syria denies using chemical weapons.

RULING “ATOP RUINS”

The April attack triggered a U.S. missile strike against a Syrian airbase. But the U.S. response was calibrated to avoid confrontation with Moscow, and has not resulted in further such action.

Trump’s decision to shut down the CIA programme of support meanwhile played to Assad’s advantage and came as a blow to the opposition. Rebel sources say the programme will be phased out towards the end of the year.

Damascus has been pressing ahead with its strategy for pacifying western Syria, pursuing local agreements with rebellious areas that have resulted in thousands of rebel fighters being sent to insurgent areas of the north.

But significant areas of western Syria remain in rebel hands, notably Idlib province in the northwest, a corner of the southwest, an area north of Homs, and the Eastern Ghouta of Damascus.

In the southwestern province of Deraa, one of the areas in the U.S.-Russian truce, the government is seeking investment in reconstruction, the provincial governor told al-Watan newspaper, saying the “shelling phase” was over.

Shunned by the West, the government hopes China will be a major player in the reconstruction. Seeking to project an image of recovery, Damascus this week will host a trade fair.

“The regime is quite keen to imply by signals that it doesn’t care, that ‘we are fine, we are really utterly prepared just to sit atop ruins, and to speak to friends who will help us with our project’,” said a Western diplomat.

Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the Assads have been “masters of the waiting game”. Time is on their side, he said. “But they have two challenges: political normalisation with the world, and the economic challenge, which is significant.”

(Writing by Tom Perry; editing by Giles Elgood)

Turkey Warns Kurdish Referendum Can Lead to ‘Civil War’

August 16, 2017

ISTANBUL — Turkey says Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region should reverse its decision to hold a referendum on independence, warning that the vote could lead to a civil war.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that the referendum, slated for Sept. 25, would worsen the situation in a country “that is undergoing so many problems.”

He told state-run TRT television: “God forbid, it could lead to civil war.”

Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, announced in June that the vote would determine whether the region would secede from Iraq.

Turkey — which has a large Kurdish population and is battling Kurdish rebels — has close ties with Iraq’s autonomous region but is strongly opposed to an independent Kurdish state.

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Iraqi Kurdish Independence Referendum Will Fuel Instability, Turkey Says

August 15, 2017

ANKARA — Next month’s referendum on Iraqi Kurdish independence violates Iraq’s constitution and will further destabilize the region, a Turkish government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Iraq’s Kurds have said they will go ahead with the referendum on independence on Sept. 25 despite concerns from Iraq’s neighbors who have Kurdish minorities within their borders, and a U.S. request to postpone it.

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“The referendum would contribute to instability in the region,” Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told a news conference after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, adding the decision to go ahead with the vote “violates the constitution of Iraq”.

Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization by Ankara, the European Union and United States, has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

In Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad’s government has lost control of large parts of the country, Kurdish YPG fighters hold territory along the border with Turkey and the  plans local elections next month – a move Damascus has rejected as a “joke”.

The U.S. State Department has said it is concerned that the referendum in northern Iraq will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the defeat of Islamic State militants.

Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak said last week the referendum would harm energy cooperation with northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional authority, which pumps hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day to Turkey’s Ceyhan export terminal.

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(Reporting by Dirimcan Barut; Editing by Dominic Evans and Janet Lawrence)

A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS.

A BULLET and the Kurdistan flag are seen on a Peshmerga fighter’s vest during a battle with ISIS near Bashiqa, Iraq, last year.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Netanyahu: Time for Kurds to have their own state

August 14, 2017

Israeli PM endorses Kurdish independence, telling Republican lawmakers Kurds ‘share our values’.

By Tzvi Lev, 14/08/17 11:02
Netanyahu

Netanyahu

Alex Kolomoisky/POOL

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered rare support for Kurdish independence, telling a visiting delegation of 33 Republican Congressmen last week that he was in favor of an independent state for the “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu has traditionally shied away from expressing sentiments in favor of the Kurds as to avoid offending Turkey, who has a large, restive Kurdish minority.

The previous time Netanyahu publically supported the Kurds was in 2014, when he said that “It is upon us to support the Kurds’ aspiration for independence,” and calling them a “fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they’re also worthy of their own political independence.”

The Kurds are one of the world’s largest stateless ethnic minorities, and live in Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.

An independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan will take place in September 2017. Former Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who many see as Netanyahu’s potential heir, has urged Israel to support Kurdish independence, saying in June that “they have proven themselves over decades to be a reliable strategic partner for us.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/233887

US urges Iraq Kurds to postpone independence vote

August 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | An Iraqi man prints Kurdistan flags in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Washington has urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani to postpone an independence referendum scheduled for next month but he requested something in return, his office said Saturday.

The timing of the September 25 vote has drawn criticism from both the Baghdad and Western governments, coming as the campaign against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq if still unfinished.

In a telephone call on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington “would want for the referendum to be postponed and that the issues between the Kurdistan region and the federal government in Baghdad should be addressed through dialogue”, Barzani’s office said in an English-language statement.

The Kurdish leader responded that were it to be put off, “the people of the Kurdistan region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future”.

Some Iraqi Kurdish officials have openly acknowledged that calling the referendum was intended as a bargaining counter in negotiations with Baghdad on other issues.

The Kurdish regional government’s representative in Iran, Nazem Dabbagh, said last month that the Kurds wanted Baghdad to meet their longstanding demand for plebiscites on incorporating other historically Kurdish-majority areas in their autonomous region.

He said they also wanted Baghdad to ratify laws on oil revenues and funding for the Kurdish security forces, known as the peshmerga, who have played a crucial role in the fight against IS.

The referendum would in any case be non-binding and is strongly opposed by neighbours Iran and Turkey, which have sizeable Kurdish minorities of their own and whose acquiescence is seen as key to achieving a viable separation.