Iraqi Kurd parliament reconvenes to vote on independence referendum

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The parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region convened for the first time in two years on Friday to vote on a plan to hold a referendum on independence on Sept. 25.

The central government in Baghdad opposes the plan, which was announced earlier this year by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Turkey, have also expressed their opposition to the plan as they fear an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

The parliament met in the KRG capital, Erbil, in northern Iraq.

Barzani earlier on Friday said the vote won’t be delayed, despite pressing requests from the United States and other western powers worried that the tension between Baghdad and Erbil would distract from the war on ISIS militants who continue to occupy parts of Iraq and Syria.

ALSO READ: Barzani: Kurdish independence referendum on schedule

“We still haven’t heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum,” Barzani said in a speech at a rally in the Kurdish region, referring to talks held with US and western envoys this week in Erbil. “The vote won’t be delayed,” he added.

Gorran, the main opposition movement to Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), boycotted the parliament session in Erbil. It was a dispute between Gorran and the KDP that caused the assembly to suspend its sessions in 2015.

The United States Friday urged Iraqi Kurdistan to call off plans for an independence referendum later this month, warning the vote was distracting from efforts to stabilize the region and combat ISIS group.

“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said a statement. “We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”

Planned for September 25, the vote faces strong opposition from the federal government in Baghdad as well as neighboring Iran and Turkey, which fear it will stoke separatist aspirations among their own Kurdish minorities.

(With AFP)

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