As Kurdish Independence Wins Approval, Turkey Threatens Israel Ties Over Support

“I will walk about at ease, for I have turned to Your precepts.” Psalms 119:45 (The Israel Bible™)

The leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, announced Tuesday that the Kurds have voted “yes” in their independence referendum.

In a televised address, Barzani called on Iraq’s central government to engage in “serious dialogue” instead of threatening the autonomous Kurdish region, Reuters reported.

The Kurds, who have ruled over the area in northern Iraq since 2003, held the referendum in defiance of the Iraqi government, which has threatened the region with sanctions. Nations such as Turkey, Syria and Iran—which all have significant Kurdish minorities—have also opposed Kurdish independence.

Meanwhile, regarding the U.S. position, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Monday, “The United States’ historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today’s non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people.”

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Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed Kurdish statehood, saying Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people.” Yet it appears the Israeli leader has backtracked to some extent on his endorsement, reportedly barring government officials from commenting on the referendum.

Nevertheless, Israel has faced a backlash from some allies over its support for Kurdish statehood.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated Tuesday he would mull severing ties with Israel if the Jewish state does not withdraw its support for an independent Kurdish state.

“If Israel does not reconsider its support for Kurdish independence, Turkey could not take any steps [with Israel],” Erdogan said, the Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah reported.

“Those trying to establish new states in Iraq and Syria should not be surprised when they are tossed aside by those who use them,” he said.

In response to the vote, Erdogan threatened to impose sanctions against the Kurds, and the Turkish military began carrying out drills near Turkey’s border with Iraq.