Barzani Firm on Kurdish Referendum, Defying Iraq MPs

News ID: 1517348 Service: World
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TEHRAN (Tasnim) – President of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani vowed Tuesday to press ahead with a referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25 despite a vote by Iraq’s Parliament to reject the move.

Earlier the Parliament in Baghdad authorized the prime minister to “take all measures” to preserve Iraq’s unity. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements rejecting the decision.

Regional countries, including Iran, Syria and Turkey have also opposed the idea of Iraqi Kurdish independence. 

Tehran has voiced opposition to the plan, reiterating its policy of supporting Iraq’s territorial integrity.

“The referendum will be held on time ... Dialogue with Baghdad will resume after the referendum,” Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said in a statement on his ruling party’s official website after the vote, Reuters reported.

Barzani told a gathering of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk that the referendum was “a natural right,” according to a tweet from his aide Hemin Hawrami. Barzani also said Kirkuk should have a “special status” in a new, independent Kurdistan.

Iraqi lawmakers worry that the referendum will consolidate Kurdish control over several areas claimed by both the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous KRG in northern Iraq.

“This referendum lacks a constitutional basis and thus it is considered unconstitutional,” the parliamentary resolution said, without specifying what measures the central government should take to stop Kurdistan from breaking away.

Mohammad al-Karbouli, a Sunni lawmaker, said, “Kurdish lawmakers walked out of (Tuesday’s) session but the decision to reject the referendum was passed by a majority.”

A senior Kurdish official dismissed the vote as nonbinding though an Iraqi lawmaker said it would be published in the official gazette after approval from the Iraqi presidency.

The KRG has said it is up to local councils of disputed regions in northern Iraq to decide whether to join the vote.

Kirkuk, an ethnically mixed city, voted last month to participate in the referendum, a move that stoked tensions with its Arab and Turkmen residents, as well as with Baghdad.

At a news conference Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the Kurds were continuing to “illegally export” Kirkuk’s oil, and he called for urgent talks.

“I call upon the Kurdish leadership to come to Baghdad and conclude a dialogue,” Abadi said.

A Kurdish delegation met officials in Baghdad for a first round of talks in August concerning the referendum.

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