Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin says results of last month's KRG independence vote should be disregarded.
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq should declare the result of last month’s independence referendum “null and void”, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference in the presidential complex in Ankara, Ibrahim Kalin said: “Everyone expects the Erbil administration to pronounce this [illegitimate] referendum null and void and move on.”
On Sept. 25, Iraqis in KRG-held areas -- and in a number of disputed districts -- voted on whether or not to declare regional independence from the Iraqi state.
According to results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.
The illegitimate referendum was heavily criticized by most regional and international actors, with many warning it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region.
Barzani announced on Sunday that he would not run in upcoming KRG presidential elections, which were recently postponed from Nov. 1 to sometime next year.
“A new tableau appears when the term of office of Masoud Barzani is not extended and [there is a] transfer of his duties to [KRG premier] Nechirvan Barzani,” Kalin said.
Barzani’s abrupt decision to step down appears to have led to a power vacuum within the KRG and it remains unclear who will assume executive authority upon his departure.
Any meeting between Nechirvan Barzani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would require some steps be taken by the KRG, Kalin said.
Turkey has previously insisted on maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity.
Turkey-Iraq border gates
The Turkish government announced on Tuesday that control of the Ibrahim Khalil border gate between Turkey and northern Iraq had been handed over to Baghdad.
“It is pleasing,” Kalin said, adding: “As a result, Turkey will not close the Habur border gate [on Turkey side of the border].”
The KRG handed over control to Iraqi forces following a Turkish-Iraqi joint military deployment to the border crossing earlier on Tuesday.
It is the main crossing between Turkey and Iraq.
Kalin also confirmed Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is planning a visit to the U.S. but added more details would be given by Turkey’s prime ministry.
The visit would come amid a row which was sparked on Oct. 8, when the U.S. embassy in Ankara announced the suspension of non-immigrant visa services to Turkish nationals.
This followed the arrest of a local employee at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Ankara.
Kalin insisted the crisis was not a “complicated” case, and said it could be resolved in “a day”.
On the invitation of the PKK/PYD to current Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan by Russia, Kalin said such a move was “unacceptable” to Turkey.
Kalin said there was no issue with inviting Kurds who were not members of the PKK/PYD, but described the group as “a subsidiary of the PKK terrorist organization and its invitation to any meeting, either in Astana, Geneva or any other [place] is unacceptable”.
The PYD is considered by Ankara to be the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization that has waged a more than 30-year war against the Turkish state.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
On domestic politics, Kalin criticized the deputy leader of Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who recently described Turkey’s president as a “fascist dictator”.
“This is disrespect to the nation’s will,” Kalin said.
Kalın also refuted rumors of an early election in Turkey, saying it was not in the agenda.
Turkey will hold presidential, local and parliamentary elections in 2019.