Kurdish referendum infuriates Ankara
Turkish government warns of ‘unwanted consequences’
22 July, 2017
Turkey reiterated its opposition to an independence referendum in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region on 19 July following media reports that Ankara had softened its stance. In a statement, a foreign ministry spokesman stressed Ankara’s “unambiguous views that preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity and political unity is among the irrevocable principles” of its foreign policy. Kurdistan’s independence referendum may lead to “unwanted consequences,” the country’s National Security Council warned afrer meeting chaired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last Monday. Only hours later, the Turkish General Staff announced that the national air forces have pounded hideouts of PKK in northern Iraq, Hakurk area. Elsewhere, security forces declared that they have seized one Zagros rifle with 273 cartridges, two hand-held radios and five improvised explosive devices in different operations in Turkey’s southeastern Sirnak and Siirt provinces. Turkish forces killed three PKK fighters last Thursday during an airstrike in southeastern Hakkari province, according to the local governor.
Since the collapse of a ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey in 2015, the Turkish government has stepped up its campaign against Kurdish officials, including those from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), accusing them of links to the PKK – an allegation the HDP denies. Since July, over 2,000 of the group's members have been arrested and over 7,000 have been detained.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s prime minister announced a cabinet reshuffle, replacing or swapping 11 ministers in the 26-member cabinet, including the ministers for justice and defence. Binali Yildirim named legislator Abdulhamit Gul as the new justice minister and former deputy prime minister Nurettin Canikli as the defence minister. In all, four out of Turkey’s five deputy prime ministers were replaced. Yildirim made the announcement following a previously unannounced meeting with Erdogan and described the reshuffle as a “change of blood”.
The announcement came months after Erdogan regained the leadership of Turkey’s ruling party following a narrow win in a referendum ushering in a series of constitutional changes. The cabinet reshuffle is seen as a major step toward cementing his authority and putting his mark on the government ahead of the 2019 elections.
Last week Germany protested to Turkey's Berlin ambassador over the arrest of six human rights activists. The German government warned its citizens and firms they face the risk of "arbitrary" arrest in Turkey. The six include a German citizen, Peter Steudtner, and Amnesty International's Turkey director, Idil Eser. The Turkish foreign ministry hit back, calling Germany's complaint "unacceptable" and "direct interference in the Turkish judiciary."