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Iraq MPs vote against Kurdish independence referendum

The planned referendum has caused local and regional tensions [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2017

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The Iraqi parliament voted on Tuesday to oppose an independence referendum planned by Iraqi Kurdish leaders for later this month prompting a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers.
The Iraqi parliament voted on Tuesday to oppose an independence referendum planned by Iraqi Kurdish leaders for later this month prompting a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers.

Speaker Salim al-Juburi, a Sunni Arab, said the vote required the government to "take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialogue" with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and representatives of the region's political parties declared the historic referendum in June.

Since the announcement, both Western and regional powers, including Turkey and Iran, have expressed opposition to the vote but Iraqi Kurdish officials have insisted the referendum will go ahead as planned.

Turkey on Monday called on the head of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to cancel the planned referendum on Kurdish independence.

Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the referendum slated for Sept. 25 will add to problems in the conflict-ridden region. Bozdag said: “This referendum is of no benefit to (Kurdish regional President Masoud) Barzani, it is of no benefit to Kurds, it is of no benefit to the people of the region.”

Turkey — which has a large Kurdish population and is battling Kurdish rebels — has close ties with Iraq’s autonomous region but is strongly opposed to an independent Kurdish state.

The minister said: “I call on Mr. Barzani to call off this referendum.”

The referendum has even caused security concerns, with reports of tensions between Peshmerga Kurdish forces and the Shia Popular Mobilisation quasi official militia. 

The oil-rich Kirkuk province, made up of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, is under the control of the central Iraqi government in Baghdad, which strongly opposes Iraqi Kurdistan's vote for independence.

The disputed region of Kirkuk in northern Iraq voted in late August to take part in this month's Kurdish independence referendum.

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