Turkey says KRG referendum will have serious consequences

A memorial to killed Peshmerga in Nineveh province

The Turkish parliament on Saturday approved a one-year extension of a mandate to use troops overseas in Syria and Iraq, two days before Iraq's Kurdish region is due to hold a controversial independence referendum.

Turkey reserves its sovereign rights under global accords should the Kurdish referendum go ahead, the statement added, signaling an extension of military presence in Iraq.

An independent Kurdistan would be a blow to Iraq's central government and is opposed by neighboring states with Kurdish populations who are anxious their own populations could be emboldened to hold similar referenda.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani on Saturday delayed a scheduled news conference on the referendum as worldwide pressure mounts for a postponement.

Iraqi Kurds fly Kurdish flags during a pro-independence rally in the city of Erbil on September 22, 2017.

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"An action that will change the status in Syria and Iraq is an unacceptable result for Turkey, and we will do what is necessary", Yildirim said.

Turkey with Iran and Russian Federation agreed this month "to allocate" their forces to patrol the zone covering rebel-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria and parts of the neighbouring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo regions to ease the six-year conflict.

Zebari said delaying the vote for negotiations with Baghdad without also securing guarantees that it could then be held on a binding basis would amount to "political suicide for the Kurdish leadership and the Kurdish dream of independence".

Khudaverdyan reminded that Turkish authorities had concerns about the spillover effect of the independence of Iraqi Kurds, considering large number of its own Kurdish population.

On Saturday, Turkish parliament will also convene to discuss the response to the referendum.

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"We expect those who are against the referendum to cause trouble but we are determined not to engage in any kind of violence, we don't want to give them any excuse to intervene or to question the validity of the vote", Zebari said.

The Syrian government hasn't commented on the Kurdish vote but Kurdish officials see it as a step toward enshrining their project of a decentralized system - one they say hasn't faced the same objections as the Iraqi vote.

Tehran-backed paramilitaries have conducted attacks on supporters of the Kurdish referendum in areas outside the KRG, especially in villages where the local council has voted to join in the vote.

The president called upon all Kurdish people to head to the polls on Monday and decide their future, saying the road ahead is hard but worth it.

More than 5.2 million people are registered to vote.

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