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Turkey to close borders with Iraqi Kurdistan 'soon': Erdogan

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a meeting in capital Ankara, October 5, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will “soon” shut its border and airspace to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in response to a controversial referendum on possible secession of the semi-autonomous region from the rest of the country.

"Flights to northern Iraq have already been suspended, the airspace and borders will also close soon," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara on Thursday.

"How will you (the Iraqi Kurds) have imports and exports then? The clock is ticking against them," he added.

The non-binding Kurdish plebiscite took place on September 25, sparking strong objection from the central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s neighbors and the international community also voiced concerns over the repercussions of the vote, which was only supported by Israel.

The Turkish president said the plebiscite showed the "perfect ingratitude" of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after years of its close commercial and political relations with Ankara.

Earlier on Thursday, Erdogan had told reporters that Turkey would decide jointly with Iran and the central government in Baghdad whether to cut oil exports from the Iraqi Kurdistan.

"The northern Iraqi leadership is drunk with the result of the referendum, [but] it's not aware of what it is doing or what kind of steps it's taking," he said.

On Wednesday, Erdogan held meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran.

In a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Erdogan warned that Turkey would take stronger steps in response to the Kurdish referendum.

Rouhani, for his part, said both Tehran and Ankara believed that “Iraq is a unified country and so is Syria, and we will by no means accept a change in geographical borders.”

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