Iraqi Kurdish Parliament Backs Independence Referendum

Kurdish lawmakers on Friday voted to plow ahead with an independence referendum on September 25, in a move foreign observers fear will ignite conflict with the federal Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Iraq's central government has rejected the polls as unconstitutional and illegal.

The planned vote has escalated tensions with Baghdad as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran - countries home to sizeable Kurdish populations.

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

Mr Barzani was adamant that the vote would not be delayed.

"That is why the United Kingdom has proposed new talks between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Government of Iraq on the future of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad", said the Saturday statement, adding that such talks should be time limited and address all the issues of dispute between the two parties without preconditions.

Last month, Kirkuk's provincial council voted to join the referendum in a vote boycotted by Arabs and Turkmen in the multi-ethnic city after the Kurdish governor Najmaldin Karim called the vote. "This referendum is not legitimate and we do not recognize it", said main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Spokesperson Bulent Tezcan on Wednesday. Gorran wants elections, restoration of the constitution and for Barzani to step down.

He also said that Baghdad will make all efforts possible to prevent the referendum and the results of the vote won't be recognized, adding that they will continue cooperation with Turkey on the issue. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities can maximally grant a broader autonomy to the Iraqi Kurds seeking independence.

The Iraqi Kurds fought an on-and-off insurgency for decades against the central government until the USA invasion of Iraq in 2003 enshrined Kurdish autonomy in the Iraqi constitution.

  • Joey Payne