United Kingdom 'does not support' referendum in northern Iraq

Sep 17, 2017, 00:47
United Kingdom 'does not support' referendum in northern Iraq

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Friday called on Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to cancel the independence referendum in northern Iraq, describing it "a grave mistake".

"The referendum risks increasing instability in the region when the focus should be on defeating Daesh", said the statement, making a reference to an ongoing fight against Takfiri terrorists in Iraq.

Controversially, the vote will also be held in so-called disputed areas outside the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) official boundaries.

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".

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Friday, government deputy spokesman Georg Streiter warned that such a move might lead to new tensions in an already-volatile region. Barzani said the national anthem and flag could be altered to reflect the diverse ethnic groups.

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Already in financial trouble due to waste and low oil prices, Kurdistan - like the rest of Iraq - relies on Baghdad for its share of the oil budget, giving the central government significant leverage.

On June 7, Barzani announced his intention to hold a referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region from Iraq on September 25.

"Heading into a referendum for September 25, there is no prospect for worldwide legitimacy", said McGurk after a delegation from the United States, Britain and the United Nations met KRG leaders.

The plan ignored opposition from Baghdad and the wider region as well as Western concerns that the vote could spark fresh conflict.

"If they have a stronger alternative to the referendum, the Kurdish leadership will look at it, but if they want [us] to postpone the vote with no alternatives, we won't", Barzani said Thursday.

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It was a dispute between Gorran and the KDP that caused the assembly to suspend its sessions in 2015.

This week, top United States 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.

Oil-rich Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.

Turkey is furious about the referendum, with loyalists to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even whipping up anti-Semitic fake news stories claiming that the Kurds have a deal with Israel to flood Kurdistan with Jews.

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