Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday a referendum on the independence of Iraq's Kurdish region would lead to a "catastrophic" break-up of the country, Reuters reports.
The comments from Sisi indicate a growing fear in the region that the division of Iraq could further empower the insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) who have declared a "caliphate" on land seized in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
"The referendum that the Kurds are asking for now is in reality no more than the start of a catastrophic division of Iraq into smaller rival states," Egypt's MENA news agency quoted Sisi as saying during a meeting with local journalists.
The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish north, Massoud Barzani, asked the region's parliament on Thursday to prepare the way for a referendum on independence.
Iraq's five million Kurds, who have ruled themselves in relative peace since the 1990s, have expanded their territory by up to 40 percent in recent weeks as the Sunni Islamist militants seized vast stretches of western and northern Iraq.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week called for independence for Iraq's Kurdistan region, where Kurdish peshmerga security forces have mobilized to fight against ISIS.
The Turkish government later said it was against Iraq's Kurdistan region splitting away from Baghdad.
"There is no doubt that Netanyahu represents his government ... but the fact that he made this comment does not mean that it is going to come true. There is a state in Iraq with its constitution," Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, said when asked about Netanyahu’s comments.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir, meanwhile, on Sunday came out strongly against Kurdish statehood, saying that the only entity an independent Kurdistan would serve, is Israel.
“We have not forgotten that Netanyahu is the only one who with great joy supports the independence of Kurdistan, but we will never let him fulfill his dreams for Iraq and this region. Netanyahu will have to continue to dream,” he said.
Besides Netanyahu, both President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman have publicly advocated for Kurdish independence.
Sisi, meanwhile, also said Sunday he warned the United States and Europe about the ambitions of ISIS.
"ISIS had a plan to take over Egypt," Sisi said. "I had warned the United States and Europe from providing any aid to them and told them they will come out of Syria to target Iraq then Jordan then Saudi Arabia."