Erdogan Threatens to Freeze Normalization if Israel Doesn’t Drop Support for Kurdish Independence

Turkey’s president says the waving of Israeli flags at pro-independence rallies won’t save the Kurds from the sanctions Ankara will impose on them if necessary

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking in Istanbul, September 25, 2017.
Pool photo via AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to freeze his country’s normalization of relations with Israel if the latter does not end its support for an independent Kurdish state, saying the "waving of Israeli flags" at rallies wouldn't get the Kurds anywhere.

Erdogan was speaking in Ankara on Tuesday to mark the beginning of the academic year — a day after Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum on whether to seek independence

Erdogan said that if Israel did not reconsider its support for an independent Kurdistan, Turkey would not carry out all the steps for normalizing relations, which were marred after an Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla to Gaza in 2010.

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He mentioned Israel a number of times in his speech and said the waving of Israeli flags — as has happened during demonstrations in favor of independence — would not save the Kurds from the sanctions Turkey would impose on them.

According to Erdogan, Israel and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party are the only two groups supporting the referendum, showing that the vote has no international legitimacy. As he put it, when Turkey imposes sanctions on the Kurds and they no longer have a source of income, let them see what Israel can give them.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve a state of their own.”

It was not the first time Netanyahu has spoken out in favor of Kurdish independence. In 2014, he said the Kurds deserved their own country, and senior Israeli officials say Netanyahu’s statement two weeks ago reflects official Israeli policy regarding the referendum.

In recent years, a raft of Israeli politicians such as Defense Minister Avgidor Lieberman have expressed support for Kurdish independence. Earlier this month, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at a counterterrorism conference that it was the interest of Israel and the United States for a Kurdish state to be established, starting first in Iraq.

“The time has come for the United States to support it,” Shaked said.