Iraq refuses to discuss Kurdish independence after referendum

Source:Reuters Published: 2017/9/26 23:38:39

The Iraqi government ruled out talks on possible secession for Kurdish-held parts of northern Iraq on Tuesday after a referendum on independence showed strong support for a split.

Initial results of Monday's vote indicated 72 percent of eligible voters had taken part and an overwhelming majority, possibly over 90 percent, had said "yes," Erbil based Rudaw TV said. Final results are expected by Wednesday.

Celebrations continued until the early hours of Tuesday in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish region, which was lit by fireworks and adorned with Kurdish flags. People danced in the squares as convoys of cars drove around honking their horns.

In ethnically-mixed Kirkuk, local Kurdish-led authorities lifted an overnight curfew  in the city, where Arabs and Turkmen opposed the vote. The referendum has fuelled fears of a new regional conflict.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani says the vote is not binding, but is meant to provide a mandate for negotiations with Baghdad and neighboring countries over the peaceful secession of the region from Iraq.

Baghdad persisted in its unwavering opposition to Kurdish independence. "We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on Monday night.

The Kurds held the vote despite threats from Baghdad and Iraq's powerful neighbors, Iran and Turkey, to block it.

Iraqi Kurds - part of the largest ethnic group left stateless when the Ottoman empire collapsed a century ago - say the referendum acknowledges their contribution in confronting IS after it overwhelmed the Iraqi army in 2014 and seized control of a third of Iraq.

Voters were asked to say "yes" or "no" to the question: "Do you want the Kurdistan Region and Kurdistani areas outside the [Kurdistan] Region to become an independent country?"

Posted in: MID-EAST

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