Par­lia­ment in Irbil backs in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

IRBIL, Iraq: The Par­lia­ment of Iraq’s au­ton­o­mous Kur­dis­tan re­gion ap­proved a plan to hold a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence on Sept. 25, ig­nor­ing Iraqi, Ira­nian and Turk­ish op­po­si­tion as well as U.S and Western con­cern that the vote could cause new con­flicts in the re­gion.

An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Kur­dish MPs raised their hands to ap­prove the plan, dur­ing the first ses­sion held by the Par­lia­ment since it was sus­pended two years ago.

The Par­lia­ment re­con­vened Fri­day in Irbil, the seat of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment in north­ern Iraq.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Baghdad op­poses the plan, as do Iraq’s neigh­bors Iran and Turkey, which fear that an in­de­pen­dent Kur­dish state could fuel sep­a­ratism among their own Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said Fri­day that his coun­try will hold a high-level se­cu­rity meet­ing on Sept. 22 to de­cide its re­sponse to the planned Kur­dish ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence.

Er­do­gan ac­cused lead­ers of Iraq’s au­ton­o­mous re­gion of “se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal in­ep­ti­tude” for go­ing ahead with plans to hold the vote.

Wash­ing­ton, for its part, op­poses the ref­er­en­dum on the grounds that it would weaken Arab-Kur­dish joint mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions which have helped to send the Daesh (ISIS) mil­i­tant group into re­treat in both Iraq and war-torn Syria.

The United States has pro­posed un­spec­i­fied “al­ter­na­tives” to which Iraqi Kur­dish leader Mas­soud Barzani has pledged to pro­vide a rapid re­sponse.

An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Kur­dish MPs ap­proved the plan

“If they have a stronger alternative to the ref­er­en­dum, the Kur­dish lead­er­ship will look at it, but if they want to post­pone the vote with no al­ter­na­tives, we won’t,” Barzani, who set the ref­er­en­dum date in June, said Thurs­day.

The ses­sion Fri­day fol­lows two anti-ref­er­en­dum votes that passed earlier this week in the na­tional Par­lia­ment in Baghdad.

Both of th­ese votes were boy­cotted by Kur­dish leg­is­la­tors.

An­a­lysts say the ref­er­en­dum plan could mark the end of an era of co­op­er­a­tion dur­ing which Baghdad and Irbil bat­tled Daesh fol­low­ing its seizure of swaths of north­ern and western Iraq in the sum­mer of 2014. –

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