Iraq’s Kurdish parliament backs independence referendum
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on the European Union to remain fully committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and compel the US to live up to its commitments under the nuclear agreement by sending a “decisive message.”
“We expect the European Union, firstly, to carry out the JCPOA deal completely and, secondly, to press the US to honor its commitments under the deal,” President Rouhani said on Saturday, stressing that Washington should be given a strong message.
He made the comments in a meeting with President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives Siegfried Bracke in Tehran, Tasnim News Agency reported.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency reports, Iran has fully honored its commitments under the JCPOA, the nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers (the US, Britain, France Russia, China and Germany), the president added, saying that all other parties to the deal should also fulfill their undertakings. The parliament of Iraq’s Kurdistan region approved a plan on Friday to hold a referendum on independence on Sept. 25, ignoring opposition from Baghdad and the wider region as well as Western concerns that the vote could spark fresh conflict. Parliament reconvened in Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, where an overwhelming majority of the Kurdish lawmakers taking part backed the plan, Reuters said.
Hours after the decision, the White House publicly called for the first time on the KRG to cancel the referendum, warning that the vote was “distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS (Daesh) and stabilize the liberated areas.”
The parliament session was the first held since the legislature was suspended nearly two years ago, though only 68 of 111 lawmakers attended due to a boycott by the main opposition movement Gorran.
“We’ve been waiting more than 100 years for this,” Omed Khoshnaw, a lawmaker from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDR) of KRG President Massoud Barzani, said.
Some lawmakers wore Kurdish flags and rose to clap and sing the national anthem after the vote.
The Baghdad parliament’s decision earlier this week to oppose the referendum drew condemnation from deputies in Erbil. “We refuse to accept the Iraqi parliament’s decision, which was unlawful,” Muna Qahwachi, a Turkman lawmaker, said.
Qahwachi said she had voted in favor of the referendum because she said Turkmen were protected in Kurdistan, unlike in the rest of Iraq.
Earlier, Barzani shrugged off requests from the United States and other Western powers to put off the referendum.
“We still haven’t heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum,” Barzani told a rally in the Kurdish region, referring to a proposal put forward by the United States and other Western envoys this week.
Iraq’s neighbors Iran and Turkey also oppose the plebiscite.
The opposition Gorran movement boycotted Friday’s parliamentary session, the first since a dispute between them and Barzani’s KDP caused the suspension of the assembly in October 2015.
“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.
Lawmakers from a third party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), ensured the required quorum. The PUK is a historic rival of the KDP but supports the referendum plan.