Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu accused the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani Sunday of dividing Kurds inside the autonomous region as the Kurdish leader announced he was stepping down as president on Nov. 1.
Speaking to reports in Oman's capital Muscat, Çavuşoğlu said Barzani made a grave mistake carrying on with an "illegitimate" independence referendum to extend his presidential term and to silence other parties in the region about a power transfer.
"Barzani thought he was going to unite Kurds around him. On the contrary, he divided them, and Kurds living in Iraq were the most affected ones," he said.
The top diplomat said Turkey's meetings with different groups inside the KRG showed many Kurdish parties were concerned with the lack of international and domestic support for independence and therefore opposed to the referendum.
Çavuşoğlu added that Barzani's decision to step down was his own, and on principle, Turkey does not interfere in the domestic affairs of the KRG.
Barzani had come under growing opposition from his detractors after he organized the referendum on Kurdish independence that triggered a deep crisis with Baghdad.
The Iraqi federal government deemed the vote unconstitutional, and its forces have since seized a swathe of disputed territory in the north from Kurdish fighters.
Territory reclaimed from the Kurds in the sweeping operation included key oilfields in and around the disputed province of Kirkuk.
For the past two days, Peshmerga and Iraqi commanders have also been trying to hammer out a deal that would see Kurdish fighters withdraw peacefully after a truce in clashes over the Fishkhabur border post with Turkey.
The loss of the oilfields, which provided income that would have been critical to an independent Kurdish state, sparked recriminations among the Kurds.