Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın reiterated yesterday Ankara's concerns over Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) decision to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, saying Turkey hopes the KRG would revoke the erroneous move.
The referendum "would be an attempt against Iraq's territorial integrity," Kalın said during a press briefing in Ankara, adding that the decision is being consulted with authorities in both Irbil and the central government in Baghdad.
Upon a question on whether Ankara will impose any sanctions, including closing border gates, Kalın said such move is not on the agenda and out of the question.
"Our primary goal is to return from this mistake by negotiation," he underlined and added that Turkey has strong bilateral relations with the KRG.
On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the decision, saying that it has deeply saddened Ankara. Speaking at the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting in Parliament, Erdoğan said: "Stepping on northern Iraq's independence is a threat to Iraq's territorial integrity and it is wrong. We wish this step would have been taken through consultation. We have always been in favor of Iraq's territorial integrity."
KRG President Masoud Barzani announced the decision to hold a referendum on June 7 on his official Twitter account. In addition, a tweet from Hamin Hawrami, a senior presidential adviser, said: "Big news. Kurdistan referendum for independence is on September 25, 2017."
Last week, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım called the move "irresponsible" while the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement calling it a "grave mistake." Baghdad responded to news of the referendum in its most recent statement saying, "We reject Irbil's one-sided step towards independence."
Meanwhile, the U.S., U.K., Germany and Iran have also criticized the KRG's announcement for the referendum on independence, saying that the move will further intensify the regional turmoil and also harm the anti-Daesh fight efforts in the region. Iraqi Kurdistan, with a population of about 5 million, already enjoys a high degree of autonomy with its own parliament and armed forces, the peshmerga. However, relations with the central government in Baghdad have nosedived in recent years, over a range of issues including the sharing of oil revenues and the control of some areas that are technically part of Iraq but have come under Kurdish control since 2014 in the war against Daesh.
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