Kurdish leaders studying western delegation plan to delay referendum

Frederick Owens
September 16, 2017

Earlier Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country plans to hold a high-level security meeting on September 22 to decide what response to take over the Kurdish referendum, accused leaders of Iraq's autonomous region of "serious political inaptitude" for going ahead with plans to hold the vote.

While attending a news conference in Irbil, McGurk said moving forward with the referendum on September 25 would be a "risky" move for Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region because the move lacked worldwide support.He noted that Belgium, Britain, France and Iraq have jointly developed an "alternative plan" for the referendum.

"But we will hold our referendum without an alternative and whatever happens, happens", he emphasized.

Iraq's parliament on Thursday voted to dismiss the Kurdish governor of the ethnically mixed Kirkuk province, in a move that could escalate tensions ahead of a planned Kurdish referendum on independence.

"We would obviously very much encourage the political leaders here in the Kurdistan region to embrace this alternative path", McGurk said in a press conference in Iraqi Kurdistan's capital, Irbil.

"We refuse to accept the Iraqi parliament's decision, which was unlawful", Muna Qahwachi, a Turkman lawmaker, told Reuters.

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Barzani criticized those claiming that referendum does not have legitimacy, saying "the referendum's legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan".

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".

"He [Kareem] is an elected governor of the council of Kirkuk", said Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to President Barzani.

Iraq's neighbours Iran and Turkey also oppose the plebiscite, fearing an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations. "But those steps have forced us to reconsider", Erdogan said.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, during a visit to Iraq last month, encouraged the regional government and Baghdad to use dialogue to resolve their issues, and he asked all sides to "keep the focus on maintaining the momentum against [IS]".

USA officials say peshmerga's cooperation with the Iraqi army played a critical role in removing IS from Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul. Baghdad said the troops were there without permission and called on them to withdraw. Iraq's central government has rejected the polls as unconstitutional and illegal.

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