Iraqi Turkmen political parties on Saturday reiterated their opposition to an upcoming referendum on Kurdish regional independence, calling on supporters to boycott the Sept. 25 poll.
At a press conference convened the city of Kirkuk, Ershad Salihi, head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, read out a joint statement signed by Kirkuk-based Turkmen parties articulating their objections to the planned referendum.
Threatening not to recognize the referendum results, the parties described the upcoming poll as “a tool being used against the region’s Turkmen”, according to the text of the statement.
“Iraq is currently going through a critical period,” Salihi declared.
“Victory against the Daesh terrorist group is on the horizon,” he added, “but Kirkuk’s [Daesh-held] Hawija district -- and other districts -- must still be liberated.”
Along with the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the joint statement was signed by the Turkmeneli Party, the Turkmen Justice Party, the Turkmen Determination Party, the Turkmen Loyalty Party, the Turkmen Islamic Union Party, and the Turkmen Nationalist Community Party.
Slated for Sept. 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region -- including the disputed Kirkuk province -- vote on whether or not to declare independence from Baghdad.
The Iraqi government, however, rejects the planned poll, saying it could adversely affect the ongoing fight against Daesh, which -- despite a string of recent defeats -- still maintains a significant presence in Iraq.
Baghdad also believes that the poll would violate Iraq’s 2005 constitution and will be “of no political or economic benefit to the region’s Kurds”.
Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, insisting that the region’s stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity.
Washington, meanwhile, has likewise voiced concern that the poll could serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and the stabilization of post-Daesh Iraq.
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara
By Haydar Hadi in Kirkuk