September 25, 2017 / 11:39 AM / 9 months ago

Turkey would intervene if Iraqi Turkmens targeted, foreign minister says

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s foreign minister warned on Monday that Ankara would intervene militarily if the Turkmen population in Iraq was targeted, marking its latest warning over the independence referendum in northern Iraq.

A member of Peshmerga forces stands guard during Kurds independence referendum in Sheikh Amir village, Iraq September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

Mevult Cavusoglu made the comment in an interview with broadcaster A Haber.

Ankara sees itself as a protector of Iraq’s Turkmen ethnic minority, with a particular focus on the oil city of Kirkuk, which Kurds seized in 2014 as Iraqi troops retreated in the face of Islamic State advances.

Voting began on Monday despite strong opposition from Iraq’s central government and Turkey and Iran - both with significant Kurdish populations - as well as Western warnings the move could aggravate Middle East instability.

Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan

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