Turkish president says Turkey not to allow any threat against historical Turkmen city of Kirkuk
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Sunday that the illegitimate referendum held in northern Iraq was against the Iraqi constitution.
"We will never turn a blind eye to unrest well beyond our borders which will create a permanent threat both for Iraqi and Turkish nations and the countries in the region," Erdogan said in an opening speech at the Turkish parliament's third legislative session.
He said that Turkey would never allow any threat against the historical Turkmen city of Kirkuk, which is one of the territories disputed between the central Iraqi government and Kurdish Regional Government.
Monday's illegitimate poll saw Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, including ethnically mixed Kirkuk and Mosul -- vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq's central government.
According to preliminary figures released by the KRG, almost 93 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of independence from Baghdad.
The illegitimate referendum in northern Iraq had faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, many of whom had warned that the poll would further destabilize the Middle East.
Turkey's EU process
The president said Turkey was concerned with "European countries' support for terrorist organizations". "Today, Europe has become a place where terrorists can move around freely and carry out all kinds of activity against Turkey's legitimate administration.
"We are extremely uncomfortable with those who openly hinder Turkey's EU membership but adopt a tolerant attitude towards terrorist organizations," he said, referring to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and PKK which have presence in Europe.
Erdogan said Turkey would not give up the EU process. "If the EU would take a further step today, then there is only one way to do that, and that would be to make Turkey a member, and launch a real economic and cultural enlargement move," he said.
"If the EU were to do that, we would be happy to contribute to Europe's future. But if not, it doesn't make any difference for us; we will continue to go our own way," he added.
The EU can temporarily suspend negotiations with Turkey if a majority of its member states back such a proposal, which can be initiated by the European Commission or by one third of the member states.
Ties between Ankara and European capitals have been strained since the July 15 defeated coup attempt in Turkey last year as Turkish leaders slammed European countries for failing to show strong solidarity with the Turkish government against the attempted military coup.
Erdogan also commented on the constitutional reforms approved in the April referendum, highlighting the need for the parliament to make relevant adjustment laws.
The constitutional changes were passed by the parliament in an 18-article bill in January, and then approved in a referendum on April 16.
The changes hand wide-ranging executive powers to the president and eliminate the post of prime minister, and also allow the president to retain ties to a political party.
Other changes include lowering the minimum age for parliamentary candidates to 18 and increasing the number of deputies to 600.
The General Assembly is set to reconvene on Tuesday to continue its legislative work after political parties' parliamentary group meetings.