Iran will remain an eternal friend of Kurds despite their recent vote to split from Iraq, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in New York on Wednesday.

“We believe that was a very serious mistake, and we believe that as people who are friends of the Kurds – we will remain eternal friends of the Kurds – we believe that was a major strategic mistake,” he said in an interview with the Asia Society, a nonprofit based in New York.

Zarif predicted the Monday referendum, in which 92 percent of 3.4 million people in northern Iraq’s three main Kurdish provinces and in multi-ethnic Kirkuk region voted to have a separate nation state, would have consequences that would not be limited to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran and Turkey criticized the referendum amid fears it might strengthen separatist feelings in their own ethnic Kurdish minorities. The United Nations and the United States also decried the Iraqi Kurdish authorities for potentially destabilizing the region. Baghdad has called the vote illegal and has refused to engage in a dialogue with Kurdish leaders.