KRG referendum not among priorities, Iraqi PM says

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 15.08.2017 22:59

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has said that the planned referendum on the secession of northern Iraq's Kurdish region is "not among Iraq's priorities," during talks with a Kurdish delegation yesterday.

The September referendum, which will be considered non-binding, will see the region's Kurdish residents vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq's central government in Baghdad.

Turkey, the U.S. and opposition parties in the region previously objected to the referendum decision.

While Turkey rejects the planned referendum and insists that the region's stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq's territorial integrity, the U.S., meanwhile, has expressed concerns that the referendum could serve as a "distraction" from other pressing regional issues - especially the fight against terrorism and the political stabilization of war-weary Iraq.

Baghdad rejects the planned referendum, saying it could adversely affect the region's ongoing fight against Daesh.

The Iraqi government also claims the vote could violate Iraq's 2005 constitution and would be "of no benefit - politically or economically - to the region's Kurds."

In a statement, al-Abadi's media office said the Iraqi prime minister has called for resolving outstanding issues through "dialogue."

The meeting addressed joint efforts of the federal government and the Kurdish Regional Government [KRG] in the fight against Daesh, the statement said.

"The meeting saw frank and deep dialogue regarding activating mechanisms to resolve outstanding problems in a positive atmosphere," it added.

Despite repeated meetings, Baghdad and the KRG have failed to resolve several outstanding issues such as disputed oil-rich areas and the salaries of Kurdish peshmerga forces.

A member of the Kurdish delegation Saadi Birah, meanwhile, said the Iraqi prime minister had been "flexible" during the meeting.

He said the people of the KRG "has reached a conclusion about the need to hold a referendum on its independence from Iraq."

Birah said the Kurdish delegation has expressed concern during the meeting about Iraq's future.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) Arshad al-Salihi told Turkish daily Hürriyet that KRG leader Masoud Barzani's persistence in holding the referendum on the given date despite international reactions, including those from Turkey, the U.S. and Germany, has a "tactical dimension."

Salihi asserted that Barzani will push for a Sept. 25 statehood referendum for the autonomous region in northern Iraq until the last minute, adding, however, that it may withdraw the move if Baghdad and Washington meet its demands.

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