Briefing on Turkey’s mixed response to the referendum on Kurdish independence in Iraq


05 October 2017

Following the Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq, Turkey is caught between opposing a Kurdish state and reluctance to lose the influence it has built-up in the region

  • Over the last 20 years, Turkey has developed a pragmatic relationship with the Kurdish Region in Iraq grounded in growing energy cooperation
  • The ability to export oil via Turkey is crucial to the viability of an independent Kurdish state, giving Ankara decisive leverage over its increasingly isolated neighbour
  • The Turkish government is now under domestic pressure to block moves towards Kurdish independence but this would risk losing out to growing Russian influence over the region

Turkey has been keen to increase its influence in the semi-autonomous Kurdish Region in Iraq (KRI) since its emergence under an international no-fly zone in the aftermath of the First Gulf War. By engaging with the region’s two main political actors, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Ankara sought to diminish the influence of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)…

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