ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Last week's referendum in the Kurdistan Region on independence from Iraq was a scheme designed by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, claimed Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan during an official trip to Iran on Wednesday.
"A decision given sitting at the same table with Mossad cannot be legitimate. It is illegitimate," Erdogan declared during a joint news conference in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani, for his part, said the Kurdish referendum is part of a “foreign sectarian plot.”
The century-old Kurdish quest for statehood was approved on September 25 by 92.7 percent of the voters.
The leaders of the two countries with millions-strong, restive Kurdish populations met to talk about measures they could take to punish Kurdistan Region for the vote.
The move has brought the Shia theocracy in Tehran and constitutionally secular, NATO member but increasingly pro-Sunni Ankara closer, despite their long-standing sectarian policies that often clash via proxies.
"A step taken, with certain person to one side, and another to the other side of yours, I believe, will condemn the regional administration in Northern Iraq to loneliness," Erdogan said, alluding to a recent photograph of Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani with a group of former Western statesmen and intellectuals.
Among them to both sides of Barzani sitting at the table were the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and former foreign minister of France Bernard Kouchner.
Since the emergence of the picture, Turkey's pro-government and Islamist media have been buzzing with conspiracy theories about Levy's activities, his Jewish ethnicity and questions about Barzani's roots, some of the articles loaded with anti-Semitic and anti-Kurdish hostility.
"No other country except Israel recognizes [it]," Erdogan said of the prospects of Kurdistan's statehood, hinting at the vocal support from Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Over the weekend, Netanyahu rejected previous, similar allegations by Erdogan.
“Israel played no part in the Kurdish referendum, aside from the natural, deep and long-standing sympathy the Jewish people have for the Kurdish people and their aspirations,” Netanyahu said.
Erdogan stated he and Rouhani agreed to take "ever" stronger steps in concert with Iraq against Kurdistan, reiterating threats of economic sanctions if not military action while both countries' armies continued drills on the Kurdish border.
A day earlier, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami and Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi met with Turkey's Chief of Staff, Hulusi Akar.
During the televised press conference, Rouhani uttered Kurdistan Region's name while Erdogan refrained from using it, referring to it instead with the euphemism of "regional administration in Northern Iraq."
“The two countries view Iraq as a unified country and so is the case with Syria. By no means we will accept a change in borders,” Rouhani said for his part, voicing opposition also to Kurdish aspirations in Syria.
Rouhani vowed that Ankara and Tehran needed to fight "terrorism anywhere" and mentioned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group waging guerrilla war on both governments' forces for larger Kurdish rights.
Later the day Erdogan sat down with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported Turkey's state media that gave no account of the meeting.
Editing by Ava Homa