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Turkey Says Iraq’s Kurdistan Independence Vote ‘Grave Mistake’

An Kurdish flag is unfurled during Nowruz celebrations in Aqra/Akre, Arbil

Turkey has criticized a plan by Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence, calling it a "grave mistake."

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on June 9 that Iraq's territorial integrity was a "precondition" for lasting stability for the country and urged Iraqi Kurds to be part of efforts to strengthen Iraq's unity.

Iraqi Kurdish officials said on June 7 that the region would hold a referendum on September 25, a move unlikely to be welcomed by the federal government in Baghdad.

Turkey, which is facing a Kurdish insurgency on its territory, is opposed to moves toward Kurdish independence.

The U.S. State Department said on June 8 that it opposed Iraqi Kurdish authorities' referendum plan.

It said the vote would be a distraction from more urgent priorities, including the fight against the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

"The United States supports a unified, federal, stable, and democratic Iraq," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Iraqi Kurds currently enjoy almost total autonomy, but tensions with the Baghdad government remain over control of oil reserves.

Though Kurds have proved to be tough and reliable allies in the fight against the IS, the United States is wary of the Kurds' longstanding dream of full independence, fearing a split could provoke a new round of conflict in Iraq.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters