Erdogan, Rouhani threaten to isolate Kurdistan Region

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region’s neighbours, Iran and Turkey, took a unified stance against the Region’s independence aspirations, vowing to isolate the regional government if they attempt to change borders. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran on Wednesday. 

“We will not accept changing borders in the region,” Rouhani said at a joint news conference.

The people of Kurdistan voted for independence from Iraq in a referendum on the issue on September 25. The 92.7 percent result supporting secession has been rejected by Baghdad, Tehran, and Ankara.

“A development of this sort will isolate the Kurdish regional government,” Erdogan warned. “Our determination in this regard is clear. We correspond with the central government in Iraq and as far as we are concerned, this referendum is illegitimate.”

Erdogan has hinted at the possibility of sanctions against the Kurdistan Region in the past. “From this moment onward, more decisive steps will be taken,” he said, standing next to Rouhani. He did not provide further details. 

Turkey is a major trading partner for the Kurdistan Region as well as providing access to international markets for the Region’s oil exports. 

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has demanded Kurdistan’s oil exports be brought under federal purview and has hinted that his government would attempt to control revenues through Turkey. 

Erdogan has warned that they can close the valve on the pipeline carrying Kurdistan’s oil to Turkey’s Ceyhan port. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, while declining to wade into the issue of Kurdistan’s independence, told an energy forum in Moscow on Wednesday that it is in no one’s interest to cut off Kurdistan Region’s oil supplies, Reuters reported. 

Just a week before the referendum, Russian energy giant agreed on a more than $1 billion deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to extend a pipeline to export natural gas from the Kurdistan Region to Turkey. 

Rosneft spokesperson Mikhail Leontyev told Rudaw at the time that the independence referendum would not affect the deal. “We are doing business in an autonomous region in Iraq that has been recognized by law. We don’t see any problems in this regard,” he said. 

The deal makes Rosneft “the biggest player in this region,” Leontyev said, noting that his company wanted to do business in the oil and gas-rich area and “Iraqi Kurdistan’s government is the partner that is suitable to do business with.”