BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister is urging Turkey to deal with his country through the central government in Baghdad, criticizing Ankara’s direct outreach to Iraq’s self-ruling Kurdish region.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a statement Saturday that Iraq rejects efforts by Turkey to treat the Kurds’ northern territory “as if it is an independent state.”

He added that if Turkey wants to maintain good regional relations, it must do so through Iraq. The statement says al-Maliki made the comments during an interview with a Turkish television channel.

Iraq warned Turkey in July that a deal it has to import Kurdish-produced oil is illegal. Relations deteriorated further earlier this month when Turkey’s foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk after meeting Kurdish leaders.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.