TURKEY

Erdoğan to discuss KRG referendum with Trump, al-Abadi in New York

ERDOĞAN TO DISCUSS KRG REFERENDUM WITH TRUMP, AL-ABADI IN NEW YORK

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will hold separate meetings with US President Donald Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in New York, to discuss the upcoming independence referendum by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

An independence referendum organized by Kurds in northern Iraq would be a key issue at Turkey's meetings at the United Nations, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sunday as he set out for a five-day trip for the annual General Assembly in New York.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Istanbul's Atatürk Airport ahead of his departure to the U.S., Erdoğan said that he will exchange views with al-Abadi.

"We share a 350-kilometer-long border with them [Iraq]. Our kin and co-religionists live there and they vice versa. In reality, we are members of the same civilization" Erdoğan said, noting that Turkey is against the division of its neighbor along ethnic or religious lines. He reiterated once again Turkey's support for preserving Iraq's territorial integrity.

"We will not say 'yes, go ahead' if you unfortunately turn this approach into a step towards Iraq's division," Erdoğan added.

Erdoğan said he will raise the Kurdish referendum issue in separate meetings with US President Donald Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in New York.

"As far as I can see, we look in the same direction. That is the indivisible integrity of Iraq," Erdoğan said in reference to al-Abadi.

Both Washington and Baghdad reiterated their opposition to Kurdish regional government's independence referendum.

In June, KRG President Barzani announced that they would hold a referendum on independence from Baghdad on Sept. 25. The head of the Iraqi Turkmen front Ershad Salihi said the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan that is planned to be held on Sept. 25 would not benefit any group in the region.

Salihi said in August that they do not accept that the upcoming referendum by the KRG be held in regions where Turkmens constitute the majority. He said earlier in June "The upcoming KRG referendum that got a negative reaction from both regional and local actors would benefit nobody. This referendum will lead the country to new chaos no matter what."

Ankara has opposed the independence vote, calling it a "grave mistake" that would "result in undesired results" for regional peace and security.

A "yes" vote in the independence referendum would not spell immediate independence for the Kurdish region, since the referendum does not have legal force. However, Kurdish officials say they will use it to pressure the Iraqi government in Baghdad to come to the negotiating table and formalize their independence bid.

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