Iraq vice-president warns against emergence of 'second Israel' in Kurdistan
Iraq's hugely influential former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned on Sunday that "a second Israel" in Kurdistan would not be tolerated, after Tel Aviv became the only state to support the planned Kurdish independence referendum.
Maliki - who is Iraq's vice-president and head of the ruling Dawa Party - warned Kurdish leaders they should "call off the referendum.
"[This] is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds," the politician who is believed to be strongly backed by Iran, said.
"We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq," Maliki told US ambassador Douglas Silliman, in a statement released by the vice president's office.
He added that a state established on an ethnic or religious base - like Israel in 1948 - would not be acceptable.
He also warned that an independence vote would have "dangerous consequences for the security, sovereignty and unity of Iraq."
Instead, he urged the Kurdish Regional Government in the northern city of Erbil to engage in dialogue with Baghdad.
As opposed to Muslim countries in the region as well as the United States and Western allies, Israel has come out in apparent support of the referendum.
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed aspirations for an independent Kurdish state, without specifically referring to the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
"While Israel rejects terror in any form, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own," a statement from his office said.
An Israeli flag was flown alongside Kurdish flags at a rally in Erbil on Friday in support of the referendum.
The United Nations has urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to drop plans for the controversial referendum and enter internationally-backed talks with Baghdad aimed at reaching a negotiated deal within three years.