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Iran, Turkey presidents discuss Kurdish independence referendum

President Hassan Rouhani and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have discussed the latest developments surrounding a highly controversial planned referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.

In a telephone conversation on Sunday, the Iranian and Turkish presidents expressed concern about the regional chaos that the independence vote would cause, Erdogan’s office said in a statement.

“The two leaders noted that not cancelling the referendum will bring with it chaos to the region and they also stressed the great importance which they attach to Iraq’s territorial integrity,” the statement added.

Keyvan Khosravi, a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said on Sunday Iran had closed its airspace to all flights to and from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq at the request of the country’s federal government.

“At the request of the central government of Iraq, all flights from Iran to Sulaymaniyah and Erbil airports as well as all flights through our country’s airspace originating in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region have been halted,” Khosravi said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that Baghdad would not allow the creation of an “ethnic government” in the Arab country.

The Iraqi premier made the remarks in a televised address on Sunday, a day before the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), led by Massoud Barzani, is to hold a contentious plebiscite on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Earlier in the day, Barzani said at a press conference in Erbil that his people’s partnership with the central government in Baghdad was over, calling on “all Kurds” to go to the polls “in peace” on Monday.

Iran, Iraq and Turkey on Thursday voiced concerns over the planned independence referendum in the northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, warning that the unconstitutional vote could fan the flames of tensions in the Middle East.

The foreign ministers of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ibrahim al-Ja’afari and Mevlut Cavusoglu, issued a joint statement following a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

The statement expressed opposition to the planned referendum, warning that the move would jeopardize Iraq’s campaign against Daesh Takfiri terrorists and lead to new conflicts across the already troubled region.

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