US urges Iraqi Kurds to call off ref­er­en­dum

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE - AFP

washington — The United States on Fri­day urged Iraqi Kur­dis­tan to call off plans for an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum later this month, warn­ing the vote was dis­tract­ing from the fight against the Daesh group.

Iraqi Kur­dish law­mak­ers voted on Fri­day to hold the ref­er­en­dum on Septem­ber 25, in the face of bit­ter op­po­si­tion from Bagh­dad and protests from neigh­bour­ing Iran and Tur­key, which fear it will fan sep­a­ratism among their own Kur­dish mi­nori­ties. Re­gional pres­i­dent Mas­sud Barzani has kept open the op­tion of post­pon­ing it un­der US pres­sure. —

washington — Washington put to one side its long­stand­ing sym­pa­thy for its al­lies in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan on Fri­day and sternly urged the re­gion to call off its in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Ear­lier, Iraqi Kur­dish law­mak­ers had voted to ap­prove the Septem­ber 25 vote that was set in mo­tion by re­gional pres­i­dent Mas­sud Barzani, a Washington ally who has pub­licly kept open the op­tion of post­pon­ing it.

Washington has long sup­ported Kur­dish au­ton­omy and has re­lied on the re­gion’s forces in the war against the Daesh group, but it fears that now is not the time for the peo­ple to seize their free­dom.

US of­fi­cials fear the vote, while not legally bind­ing, will hurt Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al Abadi’s re-elec­tion chances; com­pli­cate ties with Tur­key; and dis­rupt the war against Daesh.

“The United States has re­peat­edly em­pha­sized to the lead­ers of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment that the ref­er­en­dum is dis­tract­ing from ef­forts to de­feat Daesh and sta­bilise the lib­er­ated ar­eas,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s White House said, in a state­ment.

“Hold­ing the ref­er­en­dum in dis­puted ar­eas is par­tic­u­larly provoca­tive and desta­bil­is­ing,” it warned. While Bagh­dad recog­nises Kur­dis­tan’s au­ton­omy, the pre­cise bound­ary be­tween the re­gion and the rest of Iraq is un­clear. Washington has re­peat­edly of­fered to help ne­go­ti­ate a long-term set­tle­ment be­tween Ar­bil and Bagh­dad, but re­gional lead­ers — in­clud­ing Barzani — have been in­creas­ingly frus­trated that warm words have not led to a pre­cise diplo­matic timetable.

This week, top US en­voy Brett McGurk was again in Ar­bil and at­tempted to per­suade the Kur­dish leader to call off the highly-charged pop­u­lar vote in ex­change for a new diplo­matic ini­tia­tive.

Un­der this plan, a well-placed source said, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will over­see ne­go­ti­a­tions on rev­enue shar­ing in Iraq’s oil bud­get and pay­ment for Kur­dish mili­tia fight­ers. — AFP


Iraqi Kurds fly Kur­dish flags 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. —

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