West presses Iraqi Kurds to shelve 'risky' independence vote

16 September, 2017, 00:59 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Q&A Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim

Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) president, said Thursday he could consider an offer to delay the independence referendum. Kurdish leaders have come under increasing pressure from key ally the United States, as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran, to call off the vote fearing it could plunge the region into greater instability as the fight against the Islamic State group grinds to a close.

"To this date, we have not received an alternative that can take the place of the referendum", Barzani was quoted as saying by KRG-based Rudaw.

Barzani had a meeting about the upcoming poll with U.S. President Donald Trump's anti-ISIL coalition envoy Brett McGurk, UN special representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis and British ambassador to Iraq, Frank Baker, the statement said, adding the trio presented the Iraqi Kurdish leader with an "alternative" to postpone the referendum.

"I will stay in office", he told Reuters.

Iraqi lawmakers authorized Abadi this week to "take all measures" to preserve national unity before the independence referendum.

Kareem is a vocal supporter of the referendum and campaigned for the vote also to be held in Kirkuk.

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"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.

Kirkuk is home to sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations and is outside the KRG official boundaries.

The U.S. and other Western nations fear that the September 25 vote in Iraqi Kurdistan could ignite a new conflict with Baghdad and possibly neighboring countries, diverting attention away from the ongoing war against Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

Kareem has long riled the federal government. "This is a very risky process", United States envoy to the multinational coalition battling Daesh, Brett McGurk, told reporters after a delegation that included the UN and British representatives met with Barzani.

"The escalating tactics this week by the Iraqis are causing a large public backlash, and will strengthen the Kurdish referendum enormously", Zebari said.

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