Turkey’s military launched a military exercise at the Iraqi border on Monday, a week ahead of the Kurdish independence referendum which Turkey and some other regional countries have asked to be called off.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday the planned referendum was as an issue of national security, and warned that Turkey would take any necessary steps in response.
Iran, Syria and some Western countries have advised authorities in the semi-autonomous region to cancel the referendum, expressing concern that it would create tensions that would distract from the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Having the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are located.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he will meet Iraq’s prime minister this week to discuss their concerns about the vote.
Iran has also threatened to call off all security and military agreements with the Kurdistan region if the Kurds vote to become independent.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a friend and ally of its Kurdish brothers who has always been alongside them, acknowledges that holding the [upcoming] referendum would not be to the benefit of the Kurdistan region and hence opposes such move,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said on Sunday.