Turkey and Iran presented a united front towards Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for independence, during Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Tehran that signals a warming of ties.
“Some leaders of Iraq’s Kurdistan region have made erroneous decisions which must be corrected,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said after talks with Erdogan who visited Iran on Wednesday for the first time since 2015
“Iran, Turkey and Iraq are obliged to take serious and necessary measures,” he said concerning the retaliatory measures adopted after Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum on Sep.25.
Turkey’s President, according to Iranian state television’s translation warned of “stronger” measures to follow and said that the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq would remain “isolated”.
The two countries may support rival camps in Syrian war but both fear the secession of Iraq’s Kurds would stoke separatist sentiment among their own Kurdish minorities and now they are eager to work together with the federal government in Baghdad to block it.
Erdogan was preceded in Tehran by Turkish armed forces chief of staff General Hulusi Akar, who held talks with Iranian Defence Minister General Amir Hatami.“Cooperation between Iran, Turkey and Iraq can create stability and security in the region and block moves for secession,” Hatami said on Tuesday.
Iran and Turkey together with forces of the federal government in Baghdad have held military exercises close to their borders with Iraqi Kurdistan.
A few days ago Baghdad imposed a ban on all international flights to Kurdish airports and Iran has ordered a halt to all trade in fuel products with Iraqi Kurdistan.
It is worthy to note that within Iran, there are an estimated six to eight million ethnic Kurds, but there has been no significant separatist movement among the ethnic population within its own border and in recent years Iran’s peshmerga fighters fought alongside Iranian-backed militia forces against ISIL. Two Kurdish rebel groups are active in Iran — the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) and the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK).
However within Turkey Kurds are the largest ethnic minority estimated between 15% and 20% of the country’s population and since 1984, Turkey has battled rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has rear bases in northern Iraq.
On the economic front, Rouhani and Erdogan underlined the goal of tripling two-way trade to $30 billion in 2018, to be processed in their own currencies, easing the pressure on Iran whose banking sector is subject to US sanctions.
Before returning home, Erdogan was to meet Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei late Wednesday.