Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq will hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, an official said on Wednesday, moving ahead with a plan for full statehood that is likely to be opposed by Baghdad.
Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, announced the vote on Twitter.
A tweet from Hamin Hawrami, a senior presidential adviser, said: "big news. Kurdistan Referendum for independence is on 25/9/2017."
The announcement came after KRG President Masoud Barzani held a meeting with Kurdistan's political parties earlier in the day, Kurdish TV Rudaw reported.
Meanwhile parliamentary elections are expected to be held on November 6.
It is not clear whether a 'yes' vote, which is expected to be the result, will lead to the declaration of independence. The Iraqi government has so far not reacted to the announcement. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in April that he respects the Kurdish right to vote on independence, but he did not think the timing was right for the move.
Iraq's Kurdish region, with a population of about 5 million, already enjoys a high degree of autonomy, including its own parliament and armed forces. But relations with the central government in Baghdad have nosedived in recent years over a range of issues. These include the sharing of oil revenues and the control of some areas that are technically part of federal Iraq but have come under Kurdish control since 2014 during the war against Daesh.
Since the Gulf War in 1991, the region has enjoyed de facto autonomy under U.S. protection and seen significant economic development largely due to its oil and gas reserves and strong trade links with Turkey.
Iraqi Kurdistan was created in 1970 after an agreement with the Iraqi government, putting years of fighting to an end. Later in 2005, it gained autonomous governance status in the constitution but is still considered part of Iraq.