Turkey’s prime minister says Iraqi Kurds’ plans to hold a referendum on independence are “irresponsible” and will create new problems for the region.
Earlier this week, Iraqi Kurds announced they will hold a referendum on September 25 to decide whether to split with the rest of Iraq and form an independent region.
Binali Yildirim told reporters Friday in Ankara that Turkey supports Iraq’s territorial integrity.
“There are sufficient problem areas in our region and we don’t think it is right to create new problem areas,” Yildirim said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry also has weighed in on the issue, calling the vote “a grave mistake.”
Kurds have been called the world’s largest group of stateless people. They are spread among Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
In Turkey, the Kurdish minority has been engaged in an armed conflict with the Turkish government for decades. Ankara fears Iraqi Kurds’ independence could fuel the violence within Turkish borders.
On Thursday, though, former U.S. ambassador James Jeffrey, an expert on the region, said this week’s announcement about the referendum has been expected for weeks. He also said even with a vote for independence, Iraqi Kurds are expected to remain inside Iraq and not try to become a separate country.