Baghdad says it will not allow the creation of a “second Israel” following Kurds crowding streets to rally ahead of this month's independence referendum vote.
Iraqi Kurds waved flags supporting Israel during the gathering to reveal their desire for independence while recognizing solidarity. Thousands flooded the city of Erbil to celebrate during the pro-independence rally, ahead of the scheduled for Sept. 25 vote.
The Kurdistan regional government must “call off the referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said in response to the vote.
Iraq lays claim to the three Kurdistan Regional Government-controlled autonomous regions.
The Iraqi Prime Minister (PM) Haider al-Abadi also warned of a “dangerous” precedent being set regarding the secession, calling it “playing with fire.” He explained that Baghdad “will intervene militarily” if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday, expressed Israel's support for the Kurds, saying the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state."
Baghdad, which opposes the establishment of an independent Kurd state, rejected Netanyahu's remarks saying: “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said according to a reported by AFP.
The United States added its two-cents urging the Kurdish region’s authorities “to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”
While ally Australian spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says in a statement: "The Government has real concerns about the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) holding an independence referendum at this time."
The oceanic state raised concerns about the referendum, referencing the ongoing conflict with the Islamic State as a major cause of instability in the region. "Holding a referendum at this time risks causing further instability in Iraq that would weaken both the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government," the statement read.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on the KRG to scrap the referendum, pointing out that "any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL."
But, contrastingly, Moscow sided with the Kurds, saying “the Kurdish issue stretches far from Iraqi borders and spans neighboring countries.” The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added that “the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, as of other people, should be implemented within international law.”
Kurds outside the region will also have the opportunity to vote online on the same day, if they registered during a 24-hour window in early September.