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Turkey faces Kurdish quandary in Iraq, Syria

Ankara is finding it difficult to devise a holistic approach to the region’s Kurdish question.
Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani speaks during an interview with Reuters in Erbil, Iraq July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari - RTX3AAQA

It is not clear whether the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) independence referendum planned for Sept. 25 will go ahead. KRG President Massoud Barzani says it will, but he faces strong opposition from the West on the grounds that it will endanger Iraq’s territorial integrity. Turkey also opposes the referendum, ostensibly for the same reason, but primarily because of the effect this could have on its restive Kurds.

Many agree, however, that Ankara's response to Barzani’s announcement of the referendum in June was much milder than expected. They point to the strong ties between Ankara and the KRG, from which both sides have benefited. If Barzani were to bow to pressure and postpone the vote, it would be a relief to Ankara, but not lasting. The can would only be kicked down the road.

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