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Erdogan says Iraqi Kurdish authorities 'will pay price' for vote, blames Mossad

Turkish president claims Israel's Mossad played role in vote for an independent Kurdistan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price for an independence referendum (AFP)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price for an independence referendum which was widely opposed by foreign powers.

Iraq's Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in Monday's referendum, defying neighbouring countries which fear the vote could fuel Kurdish separatism within their own borders and lead to fresh conflict.

"They are not forming an independent state, they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in," Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum.

Are you aware of what you are doing? Only Israel supports you

- Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president

Erdogan also said that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency played a role in the independence vote, proved by the waving of Israeli flags during celebrations of the overwhelming "yes" vote.

He claimed that Turkey had been saddened to see some Iraqi Kurds acclaiming the independence referendum with Israeli flags.

"This shows one thing, that this administration [in northern Iraq] has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together," Erdogan said.

Israel has been the only country to openly support an independent Kurdish state, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backing "the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own".

People gathered at Erbil airport on Friday to protest the ending of international flights (Reuters)

Erdogan has derided the Israeli support. 

"Are you aware of what you are doing?" Erdogan said in an appeal to Iraqi Kurdish leaders. "Only Israel supports you."

Erdogan has built strong commercial ties with Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq, which pump hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil daily through Turkey for export to world markets.

"We don't regret what we did in the past. But since the conditions are changed and the Kurdish Regional Government, to which we provided all support, took steps against us, it would pay the price," he said.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to impose economic sanction, effectively cutting their main access to international markets, and has held joint military exercises with Iraqi troops on the border.

However, after Erdogan said that Iraqi Kurds would go hungry if Ankara halted the cross-border flow of trucks and oil, it has said that any measures it took would not target civilians and instead focus on those who organised the referendum.

ANALYSIS: Tanks or no tanks, Erdogan faces pressure at home over Kurd vote
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Iraq's defence ministry said on Friday it plans to take control of the borders of the autonomous Kurdistan region in coordination with Iran and Turkey.

Turkish Prime Minister Bin Yildirim, speaking on Saturday, did not refer specifically to those plans, but said Ankara would no longer deal with Kurdish authorities in Erbil.

"From now on, our relationships with the region will be conducted with the central government, Baghdad," he said.

"As Iran, Iraq and Turkey, we work to ensure the games being played in the region will fail." 

Iran, Iraq to hold joint military exercises

Iranian and Iraqi central government forces are to hold joint military exercises near their borders, Iran's state television reported on Saturday, as part of Tehran's effort to support Baghdad after the referendum.

State television quoted a military spokesman as saying the decision to hold the war games in the next few days was taken at a meeting of top Iranian military commanders which also "agreed on measures to establish border security and receive Iraqi forces that are to be stationed at border posts".

"This meeting was in line with Iran's declared policies of respect for the integrity and preservation of the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request by the Iraqi government for Iran's cooperation for the establishment of central government authority on Iran-Iraq border terminals," the spokesman said.

The KRG has refused to hand over control of its border crossings to the Iraqi government, as demanded by Iraq, Iran and Turkey in retaliation for the independence referendum.

The Iraqi defence ministry has said it planned to take control of the borders "in coordination" with Iran and Turkey, without indicating whether Iraqi forces were to move toward the external border posts controlled by the KRG from the Iranian and Turkish side.

Iraq's Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in Monday's referendum, defying neighbouring countries which fear the vote could lead to renewed conflict in the region.

Iran, which has condemned the referendum as illegal, on Friday banned the transportation of refined oil products by Iranian companies to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.

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