ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A lawmaker from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Galip Ensarioglu defended the Kurdistan Region’s right to an upcoming referendum on secession from Iraq in a recent interview with the Turkish media.
“The problem is in our reaction. I find it hyperbolic,” Ensarioglu told the Haberturk newspaper about Ankara’s vigorous rejection of the Sep. 25 Kurdish vote.
“We say we have reservations and sensitivities about Kirkuk. Okay, but are the Arabs in Kirkuk better friends to us than the Kurds? Why should Kirkuk’s joining the Kurdish region be a problem but not it remaining with the Arab [Iraq]?” He asked.
Ensarioglu’s remarks came in defiance of a fiery official line by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which has called for a cancellation of the referendum.
On Monday, the Turkish government staged a military drill right on the border with the Kurdistan Region in an apparent message of using force if necessary.
“Is [Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud] Barzani who is challenging the US afraid of us?” The MP, himself a Kurd, asked rhetorically.
The lawmaker representing the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir suggested Kirkuk joining Kurdistan was a much better option for Turkey given the region’s oil deals with Ankara and their benefits for both sides.
Ensarioglu argued either Iran or Turkey would gain influence in Iraq and Syria in the post-Islamic State (IS) era.
“The only entity that could stop Iran’s ambitions of creating a Shia bloc reaching the Mediterranean Sea is a Sunni Kurdistan,” he said, implying Turkey should also accept Syrian Kurds’ ambitions who have created a statelet in the north of the country.
He also criticized the government rhetoric which he said was “increasingly ultra-nationalistic” and harming.
The AKP lawmaker, who earlier in July did not shy away of becoming one of the first to back the referendum, said if the opposition to Kurdish aspirations in Iraq was a Turkish state policy then it could result in a further alienation of their brethren in Turkey.
Before embarking on a trip over the weekend to the US for the annual UN assembly in New York, Erdogan once again said the referendum decision must be reversed, or Kurdish authorities would face a serious Turkish reaction after his national security council meeting later this week.
Ensarioglu’s statements led to a backlash from an opposition MP, Ozturk Yilmaz, who served as Turkey’s consul general in Iraq’s Mosul until the city’s fall to IS in 2014.
Yilmaz, also a deputy leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), accused the AKP of following a hypocritical policy regarding Kurdistan’s ballot box next Monday.
He called on Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to launch an intra-party disciplinary investigation against Ensarioglu, reported Kurdistan 24’s bureau in the Turkish capital.
Yilmaz, who IS kept hostage along with 48 others for over three months after the group’s capture of Mosul, went on urging Ankara to threaten President Barzani during a press conference at the Parliament.
“The government should give a 24-hour timeframe to Barzani to give it up and if he doesn’t, speak to him in the language he understands,” said Ozturk, calling for a diplomatic, economic, and political isolation as well as military action against Kurdistan.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany