World, Middle East

Independence referendum call in northern Iraq 'wrong'

Turkish presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin rejects Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government President Barzani's call for referendum

Independence referendum call in northern Iraq 'wrong' Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin holds a press conference at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on March 31, 2017. ( Ozge Elif Kızıl - Anadolu Agency )


A top Turkish presidential aide said Friday it would be a mistake for northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region to hold an independence referendum. 

Speaking to reporters in the presidential complex in Ankara, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said: "We think this [referendum] would be a wrong step."

Iraq is going through a fragile period and the fight against Daesh is ongoing, he said, noting that Turkey's fight against the Iraqi-based terrorist PKK is also continuing.

"We do not think bringing this issue to the agenda is correct, at a time when there are several security risks at the highest levels," Kalin said.

On Thursday, Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani Barzani said an independence referendum would be held in the "near future".

Kalin also criticized a vote to raise the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk, Iraq.

On Tuesday, 26 Kurdish members of Kirkuk’s provincial assembly voted in favor of raising the Kurdish flag alongside Iraq’s national flag outside the city’s public buildings and institutions.

Kalin also called this a mistake, adding that officials there must renounce it as soon as possible.

"This will cause new spheres of tension based on ethnicity or other reasons not only around Kirkuk but also throughout Iraq," Kalin added.

Successful end of Operation Euphrates Shield 

Kalin also said that Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria had ended successfully. He said that the operation cleared Daesh from an area of 2,100 square kilometers and ended the myth of the terrorist YPG/PYD as the most effective power against Daesh.

"After Operation Euphrates Shield, it should not be concluded that Turkey will not care about the security risks here or it will not be engaged. On the contrary, our security measures in the area are continuing at virtually the highest level," Kalin added.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that the Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield, which began last August to eliminate Daesh’s presence in northern Syria, had come to an end. 

US Consulate's call to top coup suspect 

In addition, Kalin said Ankara found the U.S. account of a phone call made from its consulate in Istanbul to a top suspect just days after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to be “unsatisfactory”.

"We think they have to reveal more details about that," Kalin added. 

Adil Oksuz, who got the phone call, is seen as one of the main coup-plotters and a leading member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, FETO is accused of orchestrating Turkey’s July 15, 2016, coup plot as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and the judiciary.

Israel's proposed call to prayer restrictions 

Kalin also spoke about the proposed restrictions on the Muslim call to prayer, or adhan, in Israel and Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

"We hope Israel will renounce this mistake as soon as possible. This ban does not have any relation with the tranquility and peace of night. The adhan does not disturb anyone, anywhere in the world," Kalin said.

He added that adhan is a call to peace.

On 8 March, Israel’s Knesset approved a preliminary reading of a controversial bill that would ban the use of loudspeakers to amplify the call in Israel and Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem between 11 pm and 7 am. 

The bill -- if passed -- would impose fines on violators ranging between the equivalent of $1,300 and $2,600.

Second and third readings of the draft law must still be approved by a majority of Knesset members before the legislation becomes law.

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