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 Mailki says Turkey treating Iraqi Kurdistan 'as independent'

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Mailki says Turkey treating Iraqi Kurdistan 'as independent'  12.8.2012 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Photo: AP See Related Links

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and the governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Omar Karim (L), give a joint press conference following their meeting in the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, on August 2, 2012, during a rare visit by a high-ranking Turkish official to the city. His visit comes a day after Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and met Kurdistan president, Massoud Barzani, for talks that focused on the conflict in Syria, and at a time of notably cool relations between Baghdad and Ankara. Photo: Getty Images  
August 12, 2012

BAGHDAD,— Turkey has been dealing with Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region as though it were an independent state, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement released on Saturday.

Turkey is "dealing with the (Kurdistan) region as an independent state, and this is rejected by us," Maliki said in a soon-to-be broadcast interview with a Turkish television channel, according to the statement on his website.

If Turkey "wants to establish good relations, its relations with the region must be built through the gate of Iraq," Maliki said.

His remarks come after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and made a side trip to Kirkuk, a disputed city which Kurdish authorities want to incorporate into their region over the federal government's objections, without informing Baghdad.

The visit incensed Iraqi authorities and brought already-chilly ties between Baghdad and Ankara to a new low.

In July, a Kurdish official said the region had begun to export oil to Turkey without Baghdad's permission, a move which the Iraqi central government termed "illegal."

Baghdad and Erbil are at odds over issues including Kurdistan's refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, and over a swathe of disputed territory in northern Iraq.

Two-way trade between Turkey and the three-province Kurdistan region -- which has its own flag, government and security forces but is still a part of Iraq -- amounts to billions of dollars per year.

Kurdistan region has all the trappings of an independent state -- its own constitution, its own parliament, its own flag, its own army, its own border patrol, its own national anthem, its own education system, its own International airports, even its own stamp inked into the passports of visitors, a large number of foreign consulates and embassies are located in Kurdistan's capital, Erbil. So far 24 countries have opened consulates in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region

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