Iraq parliament rejects Kurdish independence referendum

Kurdish plans for referendum on statehood in northern Iraq suffer setback in the national parliament.

People celebrate to show their support for the upcoming September 25th independence referendum in Kirkuk
People celebrate in Kirkuk to show their support for the independence referendum [Ako Rasheed/Reuters]

Iraq’s parliament has rejected Kurdish plans to hold an independence referendum aimed at creating a Kurdish state in Iraq’s northern territory, a legislator announced on Tuesday.

The resolution, which labelled the ballot due to take place on September 25 a “threat to … the civil peace and regional security”, authorises Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, to take any measures necessary to preserve Iraq’s existing borders.

A breakdown of the vote was not immediately available.

“Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session, but the decision to reject the referendum was passed by a majority,” Mohammed al-Karbouli, an Iraqi MP, said.

Can Iraq’s Kurdish region gain independence?

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other top officials have repeatedly said the referendum would violate Iraq’s constitution.

On Tuesday Abadi reiterated his position, adding “imposing a fait accompli will not work. We will not allow the partition of Iraq”.

“I call upon the Kurdish leadership to come to Baghdad and conclude a dialogue,” Abadi said at a news conference.

The Iraqi Kurdish parliament is expected to meet on Thursday for the first time since October 2015 in response to the decision, according to officials.

Majid Shingali, a Kurdish legislator, said the vote was not binding and will not be accepted by the 111-member regional legislature.

“This decision has no value, and we will not implement it,” he said.

Authorities in Iraq’s Kurdish region announced in June this year the decision to hold an election on independence.

The referendum on whether to secede from Iraq was due to be held in the three governorates – Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah – that constitute the nation’s Kurdish region, and in areas of disputed territory currently under Kurdish military control, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

READ MORE: Kirkuk votes to take part in Kurdish independence poll

World powers fear the vote could spark a new conflict between Iraq’s minority Kurdish population and Baghdad, diverting attention away from efforts aimed at combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also knows as ISIS) group operating in the country, and neighbouring Syria.

The move for independence has also generated concern in Turkey, Iran and Syria, who fear the spread of separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

Kurds have pushed for their own state since the conclusion of WWI when Kurdish-populated areas were split between modern-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria as boundaries across the Middle East were redrawn.

Source: News Agencies