TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iraqi prime minister and Turkey's president warned about negative consequences of Iraqi Kurdistan region planned referendum of independence on September 25, noting that it will destabilize the region.
Officials in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region announced that the northern territory will hold an independence referendum on September 25.
The referendum on whether to secede from Iraq is planned to be held in the three governorates that make up the Kurdish region and in the areas that are disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments but are currently under Kurdish military control.
The disputed areas include the key oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the Associated Press in an interview on Saturday that Kurdish authorities are “playing with fire” by planning to hold a referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“A sincere and brotherly call to the leaders in Kurdistan: the decision of referendum is a dangerous one. I consider it playing with fire. This decision poses the biggest danger to our citizens in Kurdistan,” Abadi noted.
Abadi described the upcoming Kurdish vote as “unconstitutional” and “illegal,” noting that Baghdad was resorting to all legal processes it has at its disposal in response to the referendum.
“If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, then … this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well [which] would be a very dangerous escalation,” he warned.
Asked whether the use of force was on the table, the Iraqi premier stressed that if the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.”
The Kurdish vote, he said, jeopardizes gains achieved by the Iraqi Kurds under a self-rule government and opens "the gate for regional intervention in the KRG. Not in the rest of Iraq, but in the KRG."
Meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supports Iraq's stance on territorial integrity and has warned the Kurdish regional government against holding a referendum on independence.
Speaking to reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before leaving for New York to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Erdogan said, “We will hold a separate meeting with Iraqi Premier Haider al Abadi, but as far as I see, we are looking in the same direction. What is this direction? The territorial integrity of Iraq.”
“You knock on our door and get any kind of support when you are in trouble, but you go your own way when it comes to the disintegration of Iraq.”
Erdogan said the Turkish government had brought forward planned national security council and cabinet meetings to September 22 and that Turkey would announce its position on the referendum afterwards.
The referendum issue will also top the agenda during his meeting with American President Donald Trump, Erdogan added.
The Iraqi Kurds’ call for independence was not also welcomed by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and he said next week's scheduled referendum detracts Iraq from the fight against Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
Guterres said in a statement on Sunday that any dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government should be resolved through dialogue and "constructive compromise".
Guterres said "any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL".
It would also undermine reconstruction efforts and the return of refugees, he added.
The UN's Guterres urged Iraqi leaders to "approach this matter with patience and restraint" and offered UN help to address the issue.
Earlier this week, the Iraqi parliament voted to reject the Kurdish plebiscite, requiring Baghdad to “take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialog” with Kurdish leaders.
The Iraqi Kurdistan region has long been embroiled in disputes with the Iraqi federal government over budget payments, oil exports and control of ethnically-divided areas.