Parliament in Irbil backs independence referendum
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. –