Turkey says northern Iraqi referendum an issue of national security

Lawrence Cooper
September 17, 2017

The U.K. "does not support" the "aspiration" of northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to hold a controversial referendum on independence from Baghdad, the Foreign Office said Saturday.

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

"The UK calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

Controversially, the vote will also be held in so-called disputed areas outside the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) official boundaries. While providing no details on the alternative, he said he has presented it to Kurdish leaders.

"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.

A "yes" vote in the independence referendum would not spell immediate independence for the Kurdish region, since the referendum does not have legal force.

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Voters will face one question, asked in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen, and Assyrian: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) and Kurdistani territories that are outside KRI to become an independent state?"

"The government opposes a unilateral referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region, which is not agreed with the central government in Baghdad", he added.

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

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.

The parliament session was the first held since the legislature was suspended almost two years ago, though only 68 of 111 lawmakers attended due to a boycott by the main opposition movement Gorran.

Lawmaker Omed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party called the referendum a "message of peace" to Baghdad and neighbours.

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