Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned against Iraq's disintegration, saying a potential separation of the country’s Kurds would harm them.
"That is totally objectionable. We are serious about Iraq’s territorial integrity,” Abadi said in an interview with the Iraqi Kurdistan region's Rudaw media outlet published on Saturday.
"I have asked the Kurdish leaders not to out us or themselves in an embarrassing situation,” the Iraqi prime minister said.
"I don’t like prolonging the issue of referendum because the result is already obvious. But the question is whether they will act on the results or not?” he said, suggesting that such a plebiscite would assuredly lead to the region’s secession.
On Thursday, Hemin Hawrami, a senior assistant to Masoud Barzani, told Rudaw the Iraqi Kurdistan's president had told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the vote would get underway "at the earliest time."
The agency said representatives of the two main Kurdish parties of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) would meet on Sunday to discuss the issue of a referendum.
“Separation now and in the past has done the Kurds harm because your neighbors do not accept that either," Abadi said.
Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesperson for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reacted to the communication between Barzani and Guterres on Friday, saying that holding an independence vote would be a “wrong step.”
Turkey has been engaged in a decades-long conflict with Kurdish militants seeking to carve out an independent state in the country’s southeast. The conflict has killed many thousands of people.
The Turkish military conducts airstrikes against the militants’ positions in northern Iraq.