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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Iraq’s supreme court rules Kurdistan secession 'unconstitutional'

Last month, the UN Security Council urged the Iraqi government and regional leaders in Kurdistan to set a timetable for talks to end the crisis

Kurdish region's prime minister Nechirvan Barzani speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq on November 20, 2017. Azad Lashkari / Reuters
Kurdish region's prime minister Nechirvan Barzani speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq on November 20, 2017. Azad Lashkari / Reuters

Iraq’s top court on Monday paved the way for its semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to annul the results of its independence vote that overwhelmingly backed secession from Baghdad's central government.

Outraged by the results, Baghdad deemed the September vote as “illegal” and demanded the Kurds annul its results before any negotiations between the two sides.

A statement said that the court rendered “a decision declaring unconstitutional the referendum held on September 25, 2017 in Iraqi Kurdistan … and cancelling all the consequences and results".

Responding to the court's decision, the Kurdistan region's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, said on Monday: "The federal court reached its verdict on independence without the Kurdistan's regional government's input.

"The rights of Kurds are enshrined in the constitution, and we seek the implementation of this constitution to resolve our issues with Baghdad," he said.

He added: "If the Iraqi constitution was fully implemented, we would have no issues with Baghdad."

Mr Barzani, speaking at a news conference in Erbil, said that Baghdad's non adherence to the constitution led Kurdistan to hold referendum on independence.

"Stability in Iraq cannot be achieved without implementing the constitution. If Baghdad and the international community want to commit to Iraq's integrity, then the Iraqi constitution must be applied," he said.

Mr Barzani called on Baghdad to not "be selective in its application of the constitution".

"We need a third party present during talks between Erbil and Baghdad to ensure the Iraqi Constitution is respected and implemented," he said.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish regional government’s minister of foreign relations, Falah Mustafa, said that “the Kurdistan region is paying the price for stability.

"We have suffered a great deal because of the one-Iraq policy, and that policy has failed."

Last week, as the deadline announced by the supreme court for its decision on the constitutionality of the referendum approached, the Kurdistan government said it "respected" the decisions taken by Iraq's highest court.

“We believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between Erbil [the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan] and Baghdad to resolve all disputes,” the KRG added.

The federal court is responsible for settling disputes between Iraq’s central government and the country's regions and provinces. Its decisions cannot be appealed, though it has no mechanism to enforce its ruling in the Kurdish region.

Last month, the UN Security Council urged the Iraqi government and regional leaders in Kurdistan to set a timetable for talks to end the crisis.

The United Kingdom has stepped up its efforts in maintaining its support in facilitating talks between the two sides. On Monday, Mr Barzani held talks with the British ambassador to Iraq Jon Wilks in Erbil.

Mr Wilks said “the UK is ready to provide all assistance to facilitate the start of dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad".

Mr Barzani responded by stating that the “Kurdistan region has been in favour of serious dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues".