Turkey calls Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum ‘grave mistake’

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An Iraqi man prints a flag of Kurdistan, in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on June 8, 2017. Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region will hold a historic referendum on statehood in September, despite opposition to independence from Baghdad and possibly beyond. SAFIN HAMED / AFP

Turkey has criticized Iraqi Kurdish officials’ decision to hold a referendum for independence in Iraq’s autonomous northern region, calling it “a grave mistake.”

In a statement released Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Iraq’s territorial integrity was a “precondition” for lasting stability for the country and called on Iraqi Kurds to be part of efforts to strengthen Iraq’s unity.

“We believe that the announcement by the (Iraqi Kurdish region) to hold an independence referendum on September 25 … will constitute a grave mistake,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement.

This week, Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, announced plans for a referendum on Sept. 25 on whether to secede from Iraq. The vote would be held in three governorates that make up the Kurdish region and in the areas that are disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments.

Turkey, which has been battling the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in its territory since 1984, is strongly opposed to moves toward Kurdish independence.

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