TURKEY

Independence poll for northern Iraq a 'grave mistake,' foreign ministry says

INDEPENDENCE POLL FOR NORTHERN IRAQ A GRAVE MISTAKE, FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS

A statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry released Friday said the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq's decision to hold an independence referendum was "a grave mistake".

News of the planned referendum, set to take place on September 25, has alarmed Turkey, which has a policy of territorial integrity for Iraq.

The statement went on to say, "We emphasized that the independence referendum will be of no benefit to the KRG or Iraq, and that in this time of critical developments in the region this expenditure will increase instability and produce negative outcomes."

Stressing that Turkey values security and unity in its foreign policy, the statement continued, "The territorial integrity of Iraq and the conservation of its political unity is one of the foundational principles of Turkey's Iraq policy. This principle is one of the preconditions for lasting stability, peace, security and welfare."

Turkey also questioned the potential validity of a vote given the volatile situation at the present, commenting, "Furthermore, within the extraordinary conditions that the people of Iraq are living under, it is clear that a referendum that includes regions whose status is controversial will be far from reflecting the public will."

"In this respect, rather than doing harm to the unity of Iraq, there is a need for dialogue and comprehensiveness to strengthen the unity and togetherness of the country," the statement added.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also criticized the decision to hold the referendum on independence by describing it "irresponsible", adding that the region had enough problems at the moment.

Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers, Yıldırım said Turkey wanted all Iraqis to live together as one nation, and added he did not find it right to add an additional problem to the region.

Iraqi parliamentary elections are expected to be held on November 6.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in April that he respected the Kurdish right to vote on independence, but that he did not think the timing was right for the move.

In its most recent statement, Iraq's central government reacted to news of the referendum stating, "We reject Erbil's one-sided step towards independence."

Other countries in the region including Iran and Syria have historically opposed any notion of KRG independence, as each state fears separatism and the further insecurity it could bring to the Middle East.

Iraq's majority Shiite Arab community mainly resides in the south of the country, while the Kurds mainly live in north and northeast and the Sunni Arabs live in northwest. The center around Baghdad is mixed.

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