Turkey says Iraqi Kurds’ referendum plan ‘irresponsible’

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An Iraqi man prints a Kurdistan flag in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

An Iraqi man prints a Kurdistan flag in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

An Iraqi man prints a Kurdistan flag in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

Turkey on Friday warned that an “irresponsible” decision by Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to hold an independence referendum would be a “grave mistake.”

Iraq’s Kurdish region, with which Turkey has forged close trade ties, announced this week that it would vote on whether to split from the rest of Iraq and form an independent region.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the decision “irresponsible”, adding that Ankara championed Iraq’s territorial integrity.

“We have enough problems in our region. We believe it is not correct to create a new area of conflict,” the premier told reporters.

“We believe this is a decision that has been made irresponsibly.”

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said to preserve Iraq’s territorial integrity and political unity was one of Turkey’s fundamental Iraq policies.

“We believe that the announcement by the (Iraqi Kurdish region) to hold an independence referendum on September 25… will constitute a grave mistake,” it added.

Kurds are touted as the world’s largest stateless people, after being denied their own country in the wake of World War I, and are spread between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Turkey has a large Kurdish minority with which the government has been engaged in a multi-decade armed conflict, and Ankara fears that Iraqi Kurdish independence could fuel increased calls for a similar move within its territory.

The foreign ministry also said the major issue faced by Iraq is the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group and the need to rebuild the country after the conflict there.

The solidarity shown in the fight against IS “should be pursued in the post-Daesh period and the issues that concern the future of the country should be tackled with international and constitutional legitimacy,” the foreign ministry said, using an alternative Arabic name for Islamic State.

“It is clear that under those extraordinary conditions, a referendum on regions whose status are disputed will be far from reflecting the people’s will.”

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