USA urges Iraqi Kurdistan to call off independence vote

Violet Powell
September 16, 2017

Kirkuk Gov. Najmaddin Kareem said he had no intention of following Baghdad's dismissal order, issued at the behest of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Despite all the obstacles, Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan region in Iraq, is determined to hold a referendum on independence, an Armenian political analyst said on Friday.

Ankara expressed its support for the decision made in the Iraqi parliament Tuesday to oppose the independence vote, calling on the government in Baghdad to negotiate with the Irbil-based KRG.

Critics of the vote, including the United States and the European Union and even some members of Iraq's 5.5 million-strong Kurdish minority, say it could distract from the fight against jihadists.

McGurk said he was encouraged that Kurdish leaders could embrace an alternative plan focusing on dialogue between the Kurdistan region and Baghdad and a delay in the referendum. "It would be the biggest injustice", the prime minister noted.

"We still haven't heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum", Barzani told a rally in the Kurdish region, referring to a proposal put forward by the USA and other Western envoys this week. It is clear that the Iraqi authorities can maximally grant a broader autonomy to the Iraqi Kurds seeking independence.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, saying the region's stability depends on the unity of Iraq and the maintenance of its territorial integrity.

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The US dollar index was down 0.4 per cent against a basket of currencies, making oil cheaper for holders of other currencies. The distillate stocks of the country also fell by 3.2 million barrels.

Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups have threatened to dislodge the Kurdish forces from the oil-rich Kirkuk region, which is due to take part in the referendum.

Iran and Syria also oppose the vote, fearing it could fan separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

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

Kurds have long claimed Kirkuk and its huge oil reserves.

But the ethnically mixed city also has Arab and Turkmen populations. "This is a very risky process", U.S. envoy to the multinational coalition battling Daesh, Brett McGurk, told reporters after a delegation that included the United Nations and British representatives met with Barzani.

With the exception of Israel, nearly all Western countries friendly to the Iraqi Kurds have publicly opposed the Kurdish referendum.

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