Kurdish Referendum raises worries about further tension in region

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns that the independence referendum in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region “would detract from the need to defeat” Islamic State, while Turkey and Bagdat opposing the “division of Iraq”.

“The Secretary-General respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and considers that all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement adding that “the Secretary-General calls upon the leaders across Iraq to approach this matter with patience and restraint.”

Speaking to reporters on Sunday before departing for New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara and Baghdad had the same view regarding the referendum.

“We will have a meeting with Mr Abadi in the United States, and from what we can see our goal is the same. Our goal is not dividing Iraq,” said Erdogan, who earlier said that Barzani’s decision to not postpone the vote was “very wrong”.

Turkey fears that a “Yes” vote would fuel separatism in its southeast, where militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have waged an insurgency for three decades. The largest Kurdish population in the region lives in Turkey.

The Iraqi parliament has voted against the referendum which” is considered unconstitutional” and on Thursday also voted to remove the Kirkuk’s governor Najmaddin Kareem from office because he voted in favour of taking part.

The United States and other Western powers have advised authorities in the semi-autonomous region to cancel the vote, worrying that tensions it would generate might act as an unwelcome distraction from the war on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said on Friday the referendum would go ahead as planned on Sept. 25.

 

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