President warns Iraqi regional government against holding referendum, says Ankara and Baghdad are looking in same direction

Ankara and Baghdad are looking in the “same direction” on the issue of territorial integrity of Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before leaving for New York to attend the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Erdogan said: “We will hold a separate meeting with [Iraqi Premier] Haidar al-Abadi, but as far as I see, we are looking in the same direction. What is this direction? The territorial integrity of Iraq.”

The president said Turkey shares a 350-kilometer (217-mile) long border with Iraq, adding that both countries belong to the same civilization.

Erdogan warned northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani again against holding a referendum on independence.

“You knock on our door and get any kind of support when you are in trouble, but you go your own way when it comes to the disintegration of Iraq.”

He also said Turkey’s National Security Council and Council of Ministers will convene the same day on Sept. 22 to discuss the referendum issue, and will take a decision demonstrating the “ultimate stance” of the country on the issue.

The referendum issue will also top the agenda during his meeting with American President Donald Trump, he added.

“I have put a premium on the meeting with Trump. It corresponds to the time when critical regional developments are taking place.

“We have many important topics in our agenda. I believe that this meeting will have useful and productive outcomes.”

UN meeting on Rohingya

The non-binding referendum is expected to see residents in provinces controlled by the Iraqi regional government vote on independence from Baghdad on Sept. 25.

Baghdad rejects the planned poll, saying it will adversely affect the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, which still maintains a significant presence in northern Iraq. The Iraqi government also believes that holding the referendum would violate the terms of the country's constitution.

Turkey, too, rejects it, saying the region’s stability depends on the unity of Iraq and the maintenance of its territorial integrity.

Erdogan also highlighted that a group meeting on the plight of Rohingya Muslims will be held during the United Nations General Assembly.

“I believe that this meeting [of the Contact Group on Rohingya Muslims] is quite significant in terms of taking the humanitarian plight in [Myanmar’s western state of] Rakhine to the international agenda,” he said.

Since Aug. 25, around 400,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN.

The refugees are fleeing a fresh military operation in which Myanmar’s forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages. According to Bangladeshi government, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.

The 72nd session of the UN General Assembly convened at UN Headquarters on Tuesday.

The General Debate will open on Sept. 19, 2017, with the theme, “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet”.

Cumhurbaşkanı Recep Tayyip Erdoğan