Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum

Sep 17, 2017, 00:50
Iraq's Kurdish leader vows to conduct independence referendum

An Iraqi interior ministry statement described the attack as "terrorist aggression" and did not link it to the tension caused by the Kurdish plan to hold the vote, on September 25.

Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, were attempting to persuade President Barzani of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region (KAR) to accept negotiations with the central authorities in Baghdad for a new timetable.

"Do not listen to anyone, we are going to go to a referendum", Masoud Barzani said during a campaign for the Kurdish referendum in Duhok Province.

The referendum has been opposed by Baghdad because it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and would distract the ongoing fight against Islamic State militant group by Iraqi forces.

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Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Turkey, have also expressed their opposition to the plan, as they fear an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

"That is why the United Kingdom has proposed new talks between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Government of Iraq on the future of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad", said the Saturday statement, adding that such talks should be time limited and address all the issues of dispute between the two parties without preconditions.

"The US has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas", the White House statement said.

Sixty-five of the sixty-eight parliamentarians present at the sitting in Erbil voted in favor of the referendum, Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.

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In recent years, there have been tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan over power-sharing, oil revenues and territorial disputes.

On Thursday, the Baghdad parliament fired the governor of Kirkuk province, Najm Eddine Karim, over his provincial council's decision to take part in the non-binding referendum.

Iraq's Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the US imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War.

The Iraqi government believes that holding the referendum would violate the terms of the country's constitution.

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