Independence referendum move will have a cost, Turkey warns KRG leader Barzani


Turkey welcomed the Iraqi parliament's vote to reject the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) independence referendum, and warned KRG leader Massoud Barzani that insisting on holding the referendum will have a cost, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"The KRG should be aware that there will most certainly be a price to pay for insisting on its approach for a referendum despite all our friendly recommendations," the ministry said in the statement, describing the leadership's "increasingly emotional statements" in favor of independence as "alarming."

The ministry also called on Iraq's Kurdish region "to act with good sense and abandon this erroneous approach immediately."

Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject the non-binding referendum planned to be held on September 25, authorizing the prime minister to take all measures to preserve Iraq's unity.

"This decision has no value and we will not implement it," Mohammed al-Karbouli, a lawmaker, told Reuters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government had previously rejected the referendum as unilateral and unconstitutional.

Since the KRG announced its plan to hold the referendum, it has gained little support from the international community and instead has faced some harsh criticism.

The United States and other Western nations fear the September vote in Iraqi Kurdistan could ignite a new conflict with Baghdad and possibly neighboring countries, diverting attention from the war against Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey, along with Iraq, Iran and Syria, also opposes the idea of Iraqi Kurdish independence. Ankara has opposed the independence vote, calling it a "grave mistake" that would "result in undesired results" for regional peace and security.

The EU also declared its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq while the U.S. and Kurdish opposition Goran Movement demanded the postponement of the referendum.

Only Israel openly supports the referendum and independence of the KRG. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu endorsed the independence of the KRG yesterday, saying, "[Israel] supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state."

Netanyahu, in remarks sent to foreign correspondents via his office, added that Israel does, however, consider the PKK a terrorist group, taking the same position as Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

With a population of around 5 million people, Iraq's Kurdish region already enjoys a high degree of autonomy. It has its own parliament and armed forces, but has clashed with the central administration in Baghdad over distribution of oil revenues and control of some areas under the central Iraqi administration.

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