Iraq’s Kur­dish par­lia­ment backs in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

ERBIL, Iraq: The par­lia­ment of Iraq’s au­ton­o­mous Kur­dis­tan re­gion ap­proved a plan on Friday to hold a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence on Septem­ber 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.

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 IS and sta­bilise the lib­er­ated areas.”

“The United States does not sup­port the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Govern­ment’s in­ten­tion to hold a ref­er­en­dum later this month,” the White House said in a state­ment.

It urged the KRG to “en­ter into se­ri­ous and sus­tained di­a­logue with Bagh­dad, which the United States has re­peat­edly in­di­cated it is pre­pared to fa­cil­i­tate.”

The re­gional par­lia­ment’s de­ci­sion came de­spite an in­tense diplo­matic drive by the United States, which has pro­vided crit­i­cal mil­i­tary aid to the KRG’s fight against IS, to per­suade the Kur­dish lead­er­ship to can­cel the ref­er­en­dum. 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.

“There is no other way to guar­an­tee that geno­cide will never be re­peated,” Khosh­naw told the assem­bly ear­lier, re­fer­ring to the per­se­cu­tion of the Kurds and their ex­pul­sion from areas such as oil-rich Kirkuk un­der Iraqi ruler Sad­dam Hus­sein.

The Bagh­dad par­lia­ment’s de­ci­sion ear­lier last week to op­pose the ref­er­en­dum drew con­dem­na­tion from deputies in Erbil.

“We refuse to ac­cept the par­lia­ment’s de­ci­sion, which un­law­ful,” Muna Qahwachi, Turk­man law­maker, said.

Qahwachi said she had voted in favour of the ref­er­en­dum be­cause late Iraqi was a she said Turk­men were pro­tected in Kur­dis­tan, un­like in the rest of Iraq.

Iraq’s neigh­bours Iran and Turkey also op­pose the plebiscite, fear­ing an in­de­pen­dent Kur­dish state could fuel sep­a­ratism among their own Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions. The op­po­si­tion Gor­ran move­ment boy­cotted last Friday’s par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, the first since a dis­pute be­tween them and Barzani’s KDP caused the sus­pen­sion of the assem­bly in 2015.


Iraqi Kurds dur­ing an event to urge peo­ple to vote in the up­com­ing in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum in Ar­bil, the cap­i­tal of the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion of north­ern Iraq, on Friday.

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