United States urges Iraqi Kurdish leader to call off statehood referendum

Posted September 17, 2017

On Thursday, the Kurdish regional government said it had received an alternative plan for the referendum on independence in Kurdistan on 25 September.

In a statement in Washington, the White House urged Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.

The Parliament of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan convened for the first time after two years of suspension, and is scheduled to discuss referendum on independence of the Kurdish region.

"Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing".

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"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 late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the USA imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War.

Analysts say the referendum is unlikely to lead to an immediate declaration of independence and is designed, for now, to bolster the Kurds' bargaining position with Baghdad over disputed territories, shared oil revenues and greater autonomy.

During a rally in Dohuk, the President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani reaffirmed the upcoming independence referendum would be held according to schedule on Sep. 25.

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The opposition Gorran, the second-largest party in parliament, and the smaller Kurdistan Islamic Group, boycotted the vote and called it invalid.

Baghdad has condemned the referendum, calling it "unconstitutional" and "unilateral". "Nobody brought a better alternative", Barzani told people in the Nineveh Plains attending an event in support of the referendum.

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

Kirkuk is home to sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations and lies outside the official boundaries of the Kurdistan region.

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