ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey, Iran and Iraq will jointly decide on closing the flow of oil from northern Iraq, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Thursday, in what would mark a retaliatory move after the Kurdish region voted for independence.
Erdogan, who was speaking to Turkish media including broadcasters NTV and CNN Turk on his return flight from a one-day trip to Iran, said northern Iraq’s Kurdish region would come to its senses and turn back from its decision.
“If a decision will be made on closing oil taps in the region, that will be made by us. Turkey, Iran and Iraq’s central government will do so together,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
“The northern Iraqi leadership is drunk with the result of the referendum, it’s not aware of what it is doing or what kind of steps it’s taking,” he said.
Erdogan also criticised the inclusion of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the referendum, saying that Kurds had no legitimacy there and that they were “invaders” in the region.
Kurds in northern Iraq last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence. But the Baghdad central government, its neighbours and Western powers fear the vote could spark further conflict in the Middle East to add to the war in Syria.
Iran and Turkey have already threatened to join Baghdad in imposing economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan and have launched joint military exercises with Iraqi troops on their borders.
During a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, Erdogan said Turkey was considering further measures against northern Iraq, and the two leaders promised to work together against the independence drive.
The Kurds are the region’s fourth-largest ethnic group, spread across Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, all of which oppose any moves towards a Kurdish state.
Last month, Russian oil major Rosneft clinched a gas pipeline deal in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan to help it become a major exporter of gas to Turkey and Europe. The pipeline will be constructed in 2019 and exports will begin in 2020.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it was in no-one’s interest to cut off oil supplies from Iraq’s Kurdistan, which would raise oil prices.
Erdogan, however, brushed off those concerns, saying the final decision would be made by Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan