US urges Iraq Kur­dish leader to post­pone in­de­pen­dence vote

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Washington has urged Iraqi Kur­dish leader Mas­sud Barzani to post­pone an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum sched­uled for next month but he re­quested some­thing in re­turn, his of­fice said yes­ter­day. The timing of the Septem­ber 25 vote has drawn crit­i­cism from both the Bagh­dad and Western gov­ern­ments, com­ing as the cam­paign against the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group in Iraq if still un­fin­ished.

In a tele­phone call on Fri­day, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said Washington “would want for the ref­er­en­dum to be post­poned and that the is­sues be­tween the Kur­dis­tan re­gion and the fed­eral govern­ment in Bagh­dad should be ad­dressed through di­a­logue”, Barzani’s of­fice said in an English-lan­guage state­ment. The Kur­dish leader re­sponded that were it to be put off, “the peo­ple of the Kur­dis­tan re­gion would ex­pect guar­an­tees and al­ter­na­tives for their fu­ture”.

Some Iraqi Kur­dish of­fi­cials have openly ac­knowl­edged that call­ing the ref­er­en­dum was in­tended as a bar­gain­ing counter in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bagh­dad on other is­sues. The Kur­dish re­gional govern­ment’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Iran, Nazem Dab­bagh, said last month that the Kurds wanted Bagh­dad to meet their long­stand­ing de­mand for plebiscites on in­cor­po­rat­ing other his­tor­i­cally Kur­dish-ma­jor­ity ar­eas in their au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

He said they also wanted Bagh­dad to rat­ify laws on oil rev­enues and funding for the Kur­dish se­cu­rity forces, known as the pesh­merga, who have played a cru­cial role in the fight against IS. The ref­er­en­dum would in any case be non-bind­ing and is strongly op­posed by neigh­bours Iran and Turkey, which have size­able Kur­dish mi­nori­ties of their own and whose ac­qui­es­cence is seen as key to achiev­ing a vi­able sep­a­ra­tion.— AFP

ARBIL: Iraq’s Kur­dis­tan re­gion’s pres­i­dent Mas­sud Barzani looks on dur­ing a meet­ing with Mus­lim and Chris­tian cler­ics of the Kur­dis­tan re­gion. — AFP

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