x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Iraqi parliament rejects Kurdistan independence referendum 

The decision will give authority to Iraq's prime minister Haidar Al Abadi to take all necessary measures to preserve Iraq's unity, said parliamentary speaker Salim Al Juburi

Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject an Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum planned for September 25. In this picture, taken on September 10, 2017, Iraqi Kurds show support for the referendum and encourage people to vote in the town of Akra, some 500 kilometres north of Baghdad. Safin Hamed / AFP
Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject an Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum planned for September 25. In this picture, taken on September 10, 2017, Iraqi Kurds show support for the referendum and encourage people to vote in the town of Akra, some 500 kilometres north of Baghdad. Safin Hamed / AFP

The Iraqi parliament on Tuesday rejected the highly controversial Kurdish independence referendum scheduled to take place on September 25.

The decision will give authority to Iraq's prime minister Haidar Al Abadi to take all necessary measures to preserve Iraq's unity, said parliamentary speaker Salim Al Juburi.  

"The Iraqi parliament is keen to preserve Iraq's unity, sovereignty and independence,” he said. “The issue of the Kurdish referendum as well as the involvement of disputed areas, such as Kirkuk, in the vote violates Iraq's constitution.

“The parliament rejects the idea of a divided Iraq under any title or justification."

Abdel Al Malik Husseini, spokesman for the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, said that Baghdad will continue to hold talks with Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, to resolve the dispute between the two sides.

"Majority of the Arab blocs, including both Sunni and Shiite parties, as well as some of the Kurdish parties in the Iraqi government reject Kurdistan’s planned independence vote," he told The National.

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Read more: 

President of Iraqi Kurdistan says 'it's our right to seek independence'

Barzani says independence vote is due to failure of unity

Iraqi PM says Kurdish referendum will lead the country into 'dark tunnel'

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Tuesday's vote in the federal parliament was held after 80 lawmakers asked for the issue to be added to the day's agenda.

"Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session but the decision to reject the referendum was passed by a majority," Iraqi member of parliament, Mohammed Al Karbouli, said.

Mr Al Abadi and other top Iraqi officials have repeatedly said that the referendum is a violation of Iraq's constitution and have labelled it as "unilateral and unconstitutional".

Meanwhile, Washington, Ankara and Tehran have pressed the Kurds to postpone the poll. They claim the referendum will distract from the fight against ISIL and will spark further instability in the region.

Iran and Turkey fear that the vote will spark separatist sentiments among their own Kurdish minorities.

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Read more: 

Kurdish referendum is 'a mistake', says Turkish FM

Kirkuk may be ticking time bomb as it joins Kurdish referendum 

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However, Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani has shot back, saying: “When have we ever had stability and security in this region that we should be concerned about losing it?

“When was Iraq so united that we should be worried about breaking its unity? Those who are saying this are just looking for excuses to stop us."

Despite mounting pressure, the Kurdistan region is determined to hold the vote not only in the three northern provinces — Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk — where they have long enjoyed autonomy, but also in other areas of Iraq, including Kirkuk that Kurdish forces captured during the battle against ISIL.

Kirkuk, which is home to Iraqi Arabs, Turkmens, Christians and Kurds, announced that the province will participate in Iraqi Kurdistan's independence vote — even though it is not part of the Kurdistan region. 

On Tuesday, Mr Barzani met with Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi in Erbil to discuss the issue of the planned vote.

Mr Allawi stressed that the referendum is unconstitutional and will result in “civil war”.

He added that open dialogue and co-operation between Erbil and Baghdad’s central government must be a priority in order to avoid future clashes.

Shortly after, Mr Barzani met with Kirkuk's governor Negim Al Din Karim and announced: "Kirkuk should have a special status within the independent Kurdistan based on genuine partnership.

“Holding the referendum is a natural right for Kurdistan and Kirkuk is not only for the Kurds."

"Only the people of Kirkuk can decide the future of Kirkuk. No one can impose any status in kirkuk.”