Erdogan threatens to close Iraqi-Kurdistan borders, airspace 'soon'

Erdogan threatens to close Iraqi-Kurdistan borders, airspace 'soon'
2 min read
06 October, 2017
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday warned that Turkey would "soon" close its border crossing and airspace with Iraqi Kurdistan in retaliation for the autonomous region's independence referendum.
Erdogan has repeatedly told Erbil the Habur border crossing would be closed. [Getty]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday warned that Turkey would "soon" close its border crossing and airspace with Iraqi Kurdistan in retaliation for the autonomous region's independence referendum last week.

Iraqi Kurds announced an overwhelming "yes" for independence on September 25 following a referendum that has incensed Baghdad and neighbouring countries.

Iraq's government has taken a series of punitive measures since the vote, banning international flights to the region and prohibiting the sale of dollars to banks in Kurdistan.

In the wake of the non-binding poll Erdogan has repeatedly told Erbil the Habur border crossing would be closed, but this has yet to happen.

Turkish air carriers have already suspended their flights to Iraqi Kurdistan, although this was in line with an order from Baghdad rather than a reprisal from Ankara.

"Air space will be closed ... the border will also be shut soon," Erdogan said in a televised speech.

"How will you (the Iraqi Kurds) have imports and exports then?" he added. "The clock is ticking against them," said Erdogan.

Erdogan's comments came a day after a key visit to Tehran where both countries presented a united front in their opposition to Iraqi Kurdish aspirations of independence

He reaffirmed his belief that only Israel was in favour of Iraqi Kurdish independence. "They are not your friends," he said. 

Turkey fears the vote will embolden its own sizeable Kurdish minority, and is eager to work with Iran and the central government in Baghdad to block it.

But some analysts argue Turkey will be wary of cutting off economic ties with Iraqi Kurdistan as it risks hurting the domestic Turkish economy.

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has forged close ties with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, enjoying burgeoning trade ties.

Erbil exports the region's oil through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.