ERBIL, Iraq 

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq said on Wednesday that it did not allow controversial proposed stamp samples to be printed that subsequently were criticized by Turkey.

KRG spokesman Jotyar Adel told reporters that artists submitted samples of proposed designs to be printed for Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq earlier this month.

He said none of the models have been approved and noted that “the design that will be approved for printing will be in accordance with the Constitution and the law.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier Wednesday that one of the stamps depicts a map that includes Turkish provinces, and demanded that KRG officials “immediately reverse the grave mistake.”

“Certain presumptuous authorities in KRG dared to abuse the mentioned visit to express their unrealistic aspirations against the territorial integrity of Iraq’s neighboring countries,” read the statement.

The pope’s four-day historic visit from March 5 to 8 covered five Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Erbil, Mosul, Najaf and Nasiriyah.

It was the first-ever papal visit to Iraq and the pontiff’s first foreign tour since the global outbreak of the coronavirus in December 2019.

Francis held a historic meeting on Saturday with Al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, in Najaf.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat​​​​​​​

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