Iraq's Kurdish parliament backs September 25 independence referendum

Beth Cruz
September 17, 2017

A auto bomb killed one person and injured ten in Kirkuk, an Iraqi oil city where local Kurdish authorities plan to hold a referendum on independence despite opposition from the central government and the region's non-Kurdish population.

The US officially declared its opposition to the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum on Saturday, as the Kurdistan parliament unanimously voted in favour of holding it on 25 September.

"The United States has repeatedly emphasised to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilise the liberated areas", the White House said in a statement on Friday following the vote by Kurdish lawmakers.

The Kurdish Regional Government is embroiled in long-standing disputes with the federal government over oil exports, budget payments and control of ethnically divided areas. But Mohammed Haji Mahmud, a Kurdish official close to Barzani, said on Friday that President Barzani did not agree with the alternative as it did not provide a better alternative to replace the vote, only nine days from now.

Turkey warned Iraqi Kurdish leaders this week that there would be "a price to pay" for going ahead with the vote.

Baghdad, however, rejects the planned poll, saying it will adversely affect the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, which still maintains a significant presence in northern Iraq.

Turkey is furious about the referendum, with loyalists to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even whipping up anti-Semitic fake news stories claiming that the Kurds have a deal with Israel to flood Kurdistan with Jews.

Meanwhile, Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge the Kurdish forces from the Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.

KRG leader Masoud Barzani on September 15 said that the referendum will be held as planned despite objections from Baghdad, Turkey, the United States and other Western nations. Irbil and Baghdad have always been in disagreement over oil revenues and contracts the Kurdistan region has signed with oil companies.

"Those assembled in parliament today think this is a lawful session, but this is unlawful", Birzu Majeed, the head of Gorran's parliamentary block, told a news conference held while parliament was in session.

Lawmaker Omed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party called the referendum a "message of peace" to Baghdad and neighbours.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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