Cairo is “deeply concerned” about the possible secession of Kurdish-held parts of northern Iraq in the wake of Monday’s referendum on independence and called on all parties to avoid “unilateral measures,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The ministry expresses deep concern about the possible negative repercussions of a referendum for the independence of Iraq…despite repeated Arab and international efforts to prevent moving forward with the step," the statement, released on Tuesday, read.
Large numbers turned out in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region during Monday's vote, with overwhelming results in favour of independence expected by Wednesday.
Egypt urged all parties to exercise "self-restraint" and steer clear of "unilateral measures that could complicate the situation, destabilise Iraq and encourage a climate of chaos and tension in the region," the statement added.
The ministry called for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to reach a "comprehensive and satisfactory settlement," saying it backs Iraq's unity and territorial integrity.
Also on Tuesday, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed regret over the referendum. He voiced concern that "some parties have exploited the crisis to deepen divisions and fuel new conflicts in the region."
The initial data on the referendum indicated 72 percent of eligible voters had taken part and an overwhelming majority, possibly over 90 percent, had said “yes”, Erbil-based Rudaw TV said.