Wed Aug 23, 2017 09:38AM
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo by AFP)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo by AFP)

Turkey’s foreign minister says his country expects the administration of Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region to cancel an upcoming referendum on its independence.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is on a visit to Baghdad, made the remarks on Wednesday at a press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Ja’afari.

He said he would travel to the region later in the day to communicate Ankara’s expectation to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s President Massoud Barzani.

Kurdistan is to hold the plebiscite on September 25.

The central government in Baghdad is opposed to the vote. Many regional and international players, including Turkey, Iran and the United States, have joined the chorus of disapproval, saying such partitioning could be the last thing a war-scarred Iraq needs.

Cavusoglu reiterated Ankara’s stance, saying the decision to hold the vote was “wrong.”

Though the Turkish and American vantage points echoed that of Iraq itself, Ja’afari addressed the presser, saying, “We cannot allow to be a battleground of international players…Any issue on Iraqi soil should be addressed by Iraqi authorities. And we can coordinate within the state institutions without any prejudice to the integrity or the sovereignty of Iraq or the Iraqi Armed Forces.”

“And we are prepared to receive and discuss and hold talks with whoever [who is] prepared to maintain sovereignty and security, no matter what these forces are,” he added.

The Iraqi Kurdistan region’s President Massud Barzani (R) shakes hands with US Defence Secretary James Mattis in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq, August 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday, meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and US commanders, as well as Barzani.

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While expressing “understanding” of the demands and rights of the people of Kurdistan, Mattis “noted the concerns and the position of his country with regard to the referendum and stated that the referendum was beyond what his country expected,” the KRG said in a statement of the meeting.