Turkey in show of force on Iraqi border

Iraqi President cancels US trip to address Kurdistan referendum concerns

Kurds in Dallas Texas gather in support of the Kurdistan Region's historic independence referendum Sep. 17 2017

The Kurdish region plans to hold the September 25 vote despite an Iraqi government warning it is "playing with fire" and USA declarations it could undermine the fight against Islamic State militants.

Turkey, which has always been fighting its own Kurdish separatists, carried out military exercises at the Iraqi border and amassed dozens of tanks on its southern frontier.

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim militias, highlighting the broader perils emanating from the vote, have threatened to remove peshmerga from Kirkuk should the Kurds persist in holding the vote.

Turkey has long seen itself as protector of the ethnic Turkmen minority, with particular concern about the oil city of Kirkuk where Kurds have extended their control since seizing the city when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group overwhelmed Iraqi forces in 2014.

Russia, the only global power that has not called for canceling of next week's Kurdish referendum on independence, is the largest contributor of funds for oil and gas deals in Kurdistan, committing some US$4 billion in deals to the semi-autonomous region of Iraq this year, Reuters reports, quoting industry sources.

Turkey is flexing its military muscle on the northern Iraqi border in a show of force against next week's planned vote on Kurdish independence.

The Iraqi government rejects the referendum, saying that it is unconstitutional and does not benefit the Kurds politically, economically and nationally.

Tanks and troops have amassed on the frontier, training rocket launchers towards Iraqi Kurdistan.

"In the meeting, the three ministers emphasised that the referendum will not be beneficial for the Kurds and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), and agreed, in this regard, to consider taking counter-measures in coordination", the statement said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was asked in an interview with Al-Monitor whether the head of Turkish intelligence Hakan Fidan would travel to Erbil for talks about two senior Turkish intelligence officers.

"If the regional government takes steps without having diplomatic relations with Iran and Turkey, they won't be able to have a connection with the world even if the West supports their independence", said Acun.

The neighboring countries of Turkey and Iran, as well as the United States and the United Nations, have urged for the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq to resolve its disputes with Baghdad through negotiations rather than secession.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his cabinet will meet Friday to decide whether to impose sanctions on the Kurds over the independence referendum.

The court took the decision after it "reviewed requests to stop the referendum", the statement said.

People close to Manafort have suggested that his involvement in the Kurdish referendum could be related to the mounting financial pressure of paying for his legal defense, The Times said.

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