A senior Iranian official has expressed the Islamic Republic’s opposition to an upcoming referendum for independence by Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, saying that Tehran supports the Arab country’s territorial integrity.
Abbas Araqchi, who is Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, made the remarks during the annual coordination meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, which was held on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday.
Araqchi said that Iran strongly supported the preservation of the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national unity of Iraq within the framework of the country’s constitution and thus opposed the planned Kurdish referendum.
The vote has been scheduled for Monday in defiance of the central government in Baghdad, which says the referendum is unconstitutional and which has called on the Kurdish leadership to drop the plan.
As the referendum nears, Kurdish flags have been hoisted on buildings and flying out of car windows in Iraqi Kurdistan. Billboards have also been set up with pro-independence messages.
Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have jointly voiced concerns about the Kurdish independence vote, warning that it could fan the flames of tensions in the Middle East.
The UN Security Council also unanimously issued a statement on Thursday voicing alarm over “the potentially destabilizing impact” of the plebiscite. The 15-member council urged “dialogue and compromise” to address the differences between Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has long been embroiled in disputes with the Iraqi federal government over budget payments, oil exports, and the control of ethnically-divided areas.
On Friday, KRG President Masoud Barzani told a pro-independence rally in the city of Erbil that Iraqi Kurds were ready “to pay any price for freedom.”
“We are at a junction in the road, either to choose independence or subordination and oppression,” he said, adding that it was “too late to postpone the referendum.”
Elsewhere in his Friday remarks, Araqchi underlined the need to preserve unity among Muslim countries against Israel. The Tel Aviv regime has voiced support for the Kurdish referendum.