Kurdish leaders will decide on referendum in two days, Arab News told

Kurds hold a rally at the Martyrs Square in Beirut on Sept. 17, 2017 in support of next week's Kurdish referendum in Iraq. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Updated 18 September 2017

Kurdish leaders will decide on referendum in two days, Arab News told

JEDDAH: Kurdish leaders will decide in the next two days whether to postpone this month’s controversial independence referendum, a leading political figure from Irbil told Arab News on Sunday.
A Kurdish delegation will travel to Baghdad to assess what is on offer from the Iraqi government. “Only after studying the various options will the Kurdish leadership be able to make a decision on postponing it,” former MP Mahmoud Othman said.
“There are ongoing contacts between the Kurdish leadership and Baghdad and we will see final results in the next two days.
“With so much pressure from Baghdad, the US, Turkey and Iran, it will not be easy to go ahead with the vote. The Kurds will have to rethink their position.”
Othman dismissed a proposal on Saturday by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, himself a Kurd.
“Nobody listens to him,” he said. “His is a ceremonial position. He does not carry weight. The real power and decision-making is with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.”
He said the Kurds were in a difficult position and the leadership was to blame for not having studied the pros and cons before deciding to go ahead with the referendum.
“They did not anticipate the massive opposition to the referendum decision; they should have thought about how the major countries would respond. Obviously the Kurdish leadership did not do that.”
Othman said the Kurdish people were all in favor of the referendum. “Now, if the vote is canceled, the people will be demoralized and that is why I say the leadership should have thought about all this beforehand.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Al-Abadi this week to discuss their concerns about the referendum.
Turkey, the US and other Western powers have advised authorities in the semi-autonomous region to cancel the vote, worrying that tensions it would generate might be an unwelcome distraction from the war on Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
With the largest Kurdish population in the region, Turkey also fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades.
Ankara and Baghdad have the same view of the referendum, Erdogan said before leaving for New York to attend the UN General Assembly.
“We will have a meeting with Mr. Abadi in the United States, and from what we can see our goal is the same. Our goal is not dividing Iraq,” he said.
Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said on Friday the referendum would go ahead as planned on Sept. 25. Erdogan said the Turkish government had therefore brought forward planned national security council and Cabinet meetings to Sept. 22, after which Turkey would announce its position on the issue.
Turkey has good relations with Barzani’s administration, founded on strong economic links and shared suspicions of other Kurdish groups and Iraq’s central government.
The Kurdish Regional Government, led by Barzani’s KDP party, exports hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day via Turkey to world markets.

Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

Updated 23 min 16 sec ago

Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

  • Turkish president has threatened to "send home in coffins" visitors from Australia, New Zealand
  • Aussie and NZ leaders want Turkey to explain the "vile" and "offensive" remarks

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned on Wednesday for “vile, offensive and reckless” comments after last week’s Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.

Australia summoned the Turkish ambassador in Canberra to explain the remarks, and New Zealand dispatched its foreign minister to Ankara to “set the record straight, face to face.”

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he shot dead 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Erdogan, in election campaign rallies for his AK Party, urged New Zealand to restore the death penalty and said Turkey would make the killer pay if New Zealand did not.

He said anti-Muslim Australians who came to Turkey would be “sent back in coffins, like their grandfathers at Gallipoli,” and he accused Australian and New Zealand forces of invading Turkey during the First World War “because it is Muslim land.”

But an international affairs scholar in Riyadh said Erdogan’s comments should not be taken as representative of Muslims. 

"He is a propagandist and an unpredictable politician,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “He keeps saying these things and then he issues an apology. Right now, he is making these incendiary comments to win elections.”

It was inappropriate behavior for a head of state, Al-Shehri said. “Which president would use such language and issue these kind of comments?”

In his speech, Erdogan said that the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915 was in fact an attempt by British colonial forces to relieve their Russian allies. The attack was a military disaster, and more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand forces were killed. Thousands of people from both countries travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services, and the anniversary is marked on Anzac Day every April 25.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after summoning the Turkish ambassador and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn.” Morrison described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile.” He accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to forge peace between the two countries.

A memorial at Gallipoli carries Ataturk’s words: “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets ... after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

“Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit,” Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her deputy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, would travel to Turkey to seek clarification of Erdogan’s comments. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said.