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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

UN chief urges Iraq Kurds to scrap referendum

Antonio Guterres said any dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through dialogue and 'constructive compromise'

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres believes that conflict prevention is not merely a priority, it is the priority. AP
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres believes that conflict prevention is not merely a priority, it is the priority. AP

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has urged Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to scrap plans for a referendum on independence later this month, arguing it will detract from the fight against ISIL.

Mr Guterres said any dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through dialogue and "constructive compromise".

The controversial referendum is set to take place on September 25.

Mr Guterres said "any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL".

It would also undermine reconstruction efforts and the return of refugees, he added.

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On Friday, the United States said the referendum should be called off, a stance also pushed by neighbouring Turkey.

Iran, meanwhile, warned on Sunday that independence for Iraqi Kurdistan would mean an end to all border and security arrangements with the regional government.

Mr Guterres urged Iraqi leaders to "approach this matter with patience and restraint" and offered United Nations help to address the issue.

UN envoy to Iraq Jan Kubis told KRG president Masoud Barzani last week that the UN was ready to broker negotiations to address "all the problems and outstanding issues" between the Kurds and Baghdad, according to a document obtained by AFP.

The negotiations would aim to reach a deal within two or three years on the "principles and arrangements" for future relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region, the document said.

In return, Mr Barzani's administration would agree to postpone the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.

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