Erdoğan speaks with Rouhani on phone amid Kurdistan referendum crisis

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President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani (R) before their meeting as the 13th Economy Cooperation Organization Summit continues in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 1, 2017. Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, on Sunday spoke on the phone about an independence referendum to be held on Sept. 25  by Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), CNN Türk reported.

According to the report, evaluating the referendum and other recent developments in the region, the two leaders noted that “not canceling the referendum will bring with it chaos in the region.”

Erdoğan and Rouhani also underlined the importance of Iraq’s territorial integrity.
President Erdoğan expected to visit Tehran on Oct. 4.

The telephone diplomacy between Ankara and Tehran came hours after a statement from KRG President Massoud Barzani saying that they will not cancel the referendum despite international pressure including from Turkey and Iran.

“Only through independence we can secure our future,” Barzani said.

Following a request from Baghdad, Iran on Sunday announced a halt of air traffic to and from Iraq’s Kurdistan region, a day ahead of the region’s historic independence referendum.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Sunday declared KRG’s independence vote “illegitimate, null and void,” while the Turkish Parliament held an extraordinary session on Saturday and approved a motion to extend for another year a mandate to conduct cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq as tensions increase in the region ahead of the referendum.

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