By Kemal Karadag and Sarp Ozer
Turkey’s prime minister on Saturday blasted a planned independence referendum in northern Iraq as "adventurism" that puts Turkey at risk.
"With our 80 million citizens and the 780,000 square kilometers of our homeland, we will never tolerate any adventurism for our country's security or the welfare of our nation," Binali Yildirim told reporters in the central Anatolian province of Kirsehir.
Calling the referendum the "wrong decision," he added: "As a neighboring country, Turkey has given the necessary warning in a friendly way since the beginning. But we see that these warnings have not been heeded."
Yildirim said that the referendum isn’t an issue for our “Kurdish brothers,” adding: "It is our greatest desire that our Kurdish brothers, both in our country and in neighboring countries, live in the same way in tranquility, peace, and stability."
The premier went on to say that those who made the decision would pay the price.
"Of course there will be a price but those who took the decision will pay the price," Yildirim said, adding that "no innocents" would pay this.
He also added that possible responses to the referendum include security, economic, and political options, saying it was a "timing issue."
Separately, Iraqi Chief of General Staff Gen. Othman al-Ghanimi arrived in the capital Ankara today, and is due to meet with Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar at General Staff headquarters.
The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in areas controlled by northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) -- and in a handful of territories disputed between the KRG and Baghdad -- vote whether to declare full independence from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
Masoud Barzani, the KRG’s leader, has said a Yes vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.