Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister
Hurriyet, a leading Turkish newspaper, published an interview with Mr Gul, in which he appeared not only to pronounce on the future of Iraq but also to hint to the country's Kurds that there might be dire consequences if they proceed with their drive for greater self-determination. In unusually blunt language, Mr Gul warned them
- not to pursue any dream of a separate Kurdish state,
- to let go of their designs on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk,
- and to stop protecting the guerrillas of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has bases in the mountains of northern Iraq.
Iraq's neighbours, he said, would not stand by and watch the country being carved up.
He warned Iraq's Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), not to rely on America's continued presence. They “should not forget that Turkey will remain in the region forever.”
Turkish observers interpreted the foreign minister's remarks as primarily for domestic consumption. His ruling AK party is under pressure from nationalists because of the continuing demands being placed on it by the European Union;
So far as the PKK is concerned, the KRG spokesman pointed out that Iraq's Kurds were now taking part in formal discussions with Turkey and America to find a peaceful solution.
It was Mr Gul's caution over the status of Kirkuk that has most upset the Kurds. They insist
- “Arabisation” of the city must be reversed,
- After this -- a referendum whether to join the Kurdish federal region.
But Turkey opposes the whole process, fearing that control of Kirkuk's oil would give the Kurds an economic platform for independence. Thus, on Kirkuk at least, Mr Gul's warning is worrying.