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EU calls Iraqi-Kurdish referendum 'counterproductive'

The historic referendum is due to take place on 25 September. [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 September, 2017

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The European Union on Tuesday expressed its opposition to a referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, calling the upcoming vote "counterproductive".

The European Union on Tuesday expressed its opposition to a referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, calling the upcoming vote "counterproductive".

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and representatives of the region's political parties declared the historic referendum in June, due to take place on 25 September.

Since the announcement, both Western and regional powers have expressed opposition to the vote but Iraqi Kurdish officials have insisted the referendum will go ahead as planned.

"The European Union reiterates its steadfast support for Iraq's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," a statement by EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said.

"Unilateral actions, such as the proposed referendum, is counterproductive and must be avoided."

The EU recognises there are "outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad that need to be resolved," she added, urging dialogue which leads to a "mutually agreed solution based on the full application of the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution".

Erdogan issues referendum warning

Iraqi Kurds will vote in the non-binding referendum on whether to declare independence in a region that has already been autonomous since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

Virtually all countries including the United States and Iran oppose the referendum - with the exception of Israel, which sees a possible opening in a hostile region.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again reiterated Ankara's opposition to the vote, hinting at consequences if it goes ahead.

"Steps such as demands for independence that can cause new crises and conflicts in the region must be avoided. We hereby call on the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government to abort the initiative they have launched in that direction," Erdogan said in his speech.

"Ignoring the clear and determined stance of Turkey on this matter may lead to a process that shall deprive the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government of even the opportunities it currently enjoys."

Turkey has been fighting a long-running conflict with Kurdish separatists and has vowed to quash any Kurdish state in emerging in war-torn Syria, where Kurdish groups control large swathes of the north.

Kurds have sought an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East after the collapse of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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