Barzani meets with Saudi minister ahead of Kurdish referendum

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Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani recieved Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Saturday as part of a Saudi offer of mediation between Erbil and Baghdad.

Tensions between both sides have recently erupted in the wake of an upcoming referendum on independence announced by the Kurdish leadership.

Sabhan, the former Saudi’s ambassador to Iraq, also conveyed greetings from Saudi’s King Salman to the role of the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces and Kurdish people, a Kurdish statement said.

Barzani said Erbil has not closed the door of dialogue on anyone and, on behalf of the people of the Kurdistan Region, thanked the stance and consideration of King Salman.

Barzani emphasized the significance of the historical relations between Erbil and Riyadh.

Last week, Barzani vowed to press ahead with a referendum on Kurdish independence on Sept. 25 despite a vote by Iraq’s parliament to reject the move.

Earlier the parliament in Baghdad authorized the prime minister to “take all measures” to preserve Iraq’s unity. Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements rejecting the decision.

Western powers fear a plebiscite in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region - including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk - could ignite conflict with the central government in Baghdad and divert attention from the war against ISIS militants.

Iraq’s neighbors - Turkey, Iran and Syria - also oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.

(With Reuters)