Iraq's Kurdish parliament backs September 25 independence referendum

Kurdish men march in support of the independence referendum carrying

Kurdish men march in support of the independence referendum carrying

On Friday, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said the vote would not be delayed, despite requests from the United States and other Western powers anxious that tensions between Baghdad and Erbil would distract from the war on Islamic State militants who continue to occupy parts of Iraq and Syria.

An Iraqi interior ministry statement described the attack as "terrorist aggression" and did not link it to the tension caused by the Kurdish plan to hold the vote, on September 25.

"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.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, sitting for the first time in two years, backed the 25 September vote yesterday.

But Kurdish region President Masud Barzani has said the vote is necessary because "all other bids" to secure full Kurdish rights "have failed".

Washington opposes the referendum on the grounds that it would weaken Arab-Kurdish joint military operations, which have helped send the IS group into retreat in both Iraq and war-torn Syria.

Baghdad, however, rejects the planned poll, saying it will adversely affect the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, which still maintains a significant presence in northern Iraq.

Lawmaker Omed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party called the referendum a "message of peace" to Baghdad and neighbours. It is also clear that the Kurdish region will not become independent on the day following the referendum. Mr Barzani says the referendum's "legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside".

It was a dispute between Gorran and the KDP that caused the assembly to suspend its sessions in 2015.

Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years, as the ethnic Kurds consider the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their region.

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