TURKEY

Kurdish referendum to divide Mideast: Turkmen official

KURDISH REFERENDUM TO DIVIDE MIDEAST: TURKMEN OFFICIAL

Representative of the Iraqi Turkmen Front in Turkey, Hicran Kazancı, has reiterated rejection of a planned referendum on the secession of northern Iraq's Kurdish region.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Kazancı said all Turkmens are totally against the September 25 referendum, announced by president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani.

"The referendum will divide the Middle East region," he warned. "All ethnicities [Arabs, Ezidis, and Turkmens] will have the same demand once Kurds establish a state."

Earlier this year, the Front vociferously opposed a decision by Kirkuk's provincial council calling for the Kurdish regional flag to be raised -- alongside Iraq's national flag -- over oil-rich Kirkuk's state institutions.

After Arabs and Kurds, Turkmen constitute Iraq's third largest ethnic group, with a number of Turkmen communities concentrated in disputed areas between Baghdad and Iraq's northern Kurdish region.

While there are no official figures regarding Iraq's Turkmen population, Turkmen officials put the number at about 7 percent of Iraq's roughly 33 million people.

-Turkish opposition

The Turkmen representative welcomed the Turkish opposition of the planned referendum on the future of Iraq's Kurdish region.

"Turkey is not only close to the Turkmens, but also to all other leading groups because Turkey doesn't want a civil war to take place in Iraq," Kazanci said.

"President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said that Turkey was against the idea of a referendum," he added. Kazanci believes that the referendum was an attempt to divide Iraq.

"We [Turkmens] take side with the unity and solidarity of Iraq," he said, going on to call on Europe and the West to stand against the referendum.

On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reiterated opposition to the planned referendum in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

In a statement, ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu stressed Ankara's "unambiguous views that preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity and political unity is among the irrevocable principles of our foreign policy".

"There is no change in our position, the government is against the KRG's decision to conduct an independence referendum," he said, calling the Kurdish media reports about the Turkish acceptance of the vote as "completely groundless and unfounded".

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