ANKARA (Reuters) - The breakup of either Iraq or Syria could lead to global conflict, Turkey’s defense minister said on Tuesday as Turkish tanks deployed near the border with Iraq ahead of a planned Kurdish independence referendum.
“A change that will mean the violation of Iraq’s territorial integrity poses a major risk for Turkey,” Nurettin Canikli said. “The disruption of Syria and Iraq’s territorial integrity will ignite a bigger, global conflict with an unseen end”.
Turkey, with a large Kurdish population of its own in the south of the country, fears that the independence referendum in Iraq could embolden the outlawed PKK which has waged an insurgency in the southeast since the 1980s.
Canikli said Ankara could not allow the formation of an ethnic-based state in the south of the country. “Nobody should have any doubt that we will take every step, make every decision to stop the growth of risk factors,” he said.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans