By Kubra Chohan, Sinan Uslu, Hakan Ceyhan Aydogan
The decision by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq to hold an independence referendum later this year is a “grave mistake”, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Reacting to KRG President Masoud Barzani’s announcement that a vote would be held on Sept. 25, the Foreign Ministry said Iraq’s territorial integrity should be protected.
“We think that this would be a grave mistake,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday’s declaration. “Protection of the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq is one of the basic principles of Turkey's Iraq policy.”
Also commenting on the decision, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a statement, “Our opinion is loud and clear. We want the integrity of Iraq soil. We want all Iraqis to live together, under one government”.
“We have enough issues to deal with, and we believe creating a new one is wrong and an irresponsible decision”, he added.
“Calling into question Iraq’s unity, even demanding new border lines is not the right way, and it can further deteriorate the difficult and unstable situation in [the northern Iraqi city of] Erbil, just like Baghdad,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a press release on Thursday.
In a statement, Arshad Salihi, head of the Iraq Turkmen Front and Kirkuk deputy, voiced strong opposition to the decision: “We will not accept this area where many Turkmens live taking part in the referendum. We are afraid of renewed social conflict”.
Salihi stated that Turkmens and Arabs will work together against the decision by instead seeking a special referendum for Kirkuk to take on a federal structure or become a province of Baghdad.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a press conference that Russia supports Iraq's unity and integrity.
Vyacheslav Matuzov, chairman of the Russia-Arab Countries Business Cooperation and Friendship Society, said, “The constitution of Iraq does not allow such divisions within the country suggested by the referendum. No one will accept the results of the referendum”.