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Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum risks civil war: Turkish FM

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Photo by AFP)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned that a plan by Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to hold an independence referendum late next month will lead to "civil war" in the conflict-stricken Arab country.

“In that country (Iraq), which has been through so many problems, a referendum on independence can make the situation even worse,” Cavusoglu told the state-run TRT Haber television news network on Wednesday.

“God forbid, it could even bring it to civil war,” he added.

His remarks came a day after Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the referendum for an independent Kurdish state violates Iraq’s constitution and will further destabilize the Middle East.

“Turkey gives importance to Iraq's territorial and political integrity. It is very important that the stability is achieved in the region and people live in peace and safety. This decision by Iraqi regional government would contribute to instability in the region. It also violates the constitution of Iraq,” he told a news conference after a cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.

Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani, told Reuters on Saturday that Kurdish authorities were determined to hold the referendum on September 25 irrespective of all objections.

Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to KRG President Massoud Barzani (Photo by Reuters)

Zebari’s remarks came only two days after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked Barzani in a phone call to delay the referendum.

“On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the president (Barzani) stated that the people of the Kurdistan region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future,” a statement issued on Friday by the KRG presidency read after Tillerson's call.

In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as untimely the decision by Barzani to hold the referendum.

“We have a constitution that we've voted on, we have a federal parliament and a federal government…The referendum at this time is not opportune,” Abadi said on June 13.

Iran has also expressed opposition to the “unilateral” scheme, underlining the importance of maintaining the integrity and stability of Iraq and insisting that the Kurdistan region is part of the majority Arab state.

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