KRG vote met with waves of opposition as Iraq declares it not legally binding

DAILY SABAH WITH AGENCIES
ISTANBUL
Published 25.09.2017 19:30

Iran and China have become the latest countries to reject the upcoming Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) referendum as the Iraqi central government declared yesterday that the results of the referendum will not be legally binding.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that Iraq has the full support of Tehran regarding any actions necessary to preserve its unity and territorial integrity.

A statement released by the office of the Iraqi prime minister claimed that Rouhani, "Stressed his country's full support for the Iraqi government and all its steps that have been taken to preserve Iraq's unity and territorial integrity," in a phone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.

"Al-Abadi stressed the government's clear stance against unilateral and unconstitutional procedures that threaten the unity of Iraq, peaceful coexistence among the people of the country and the rejection of the referendum. Tehran will not deal with its results," the statement said.

Following President Rouhani's statements, Iran closed its border with Northern Iraq's Kurdish region yesterday, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry. A day earlier, Tehran halted all flights between the territories, as the KRG prepared to hold a referendum on independence from Baghdad.

Beijing also rejected the referendum yesterday in a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, saying it supports Iraq's unity.

"The Chinese government supports Iraq's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a daily news briefing when asked about the referendum.

In addition to China and Iran, Syria's Assad regime said yesterday that it also rejects the independence referendum organized by the KRG in Northern Iraq.

"We in Syria only recognize a united Iraq and reject any procedure that leads to the fragmentation of Iraq," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said, as reported by Syria's regime-controlled news agency SANA. Regarding the referendum, Iraqi parliamentary speaker Salim al-Jubouri said yesterday that they are keen on keeping the Kurds "within one homeland."

"The unity of Iraq is our main concern and we will not give it up," he said, going on to blame "wrong policies" for the current state of tension.

The Iraqi government asked the KRG to handover international border posts and its international airports on Sunday. It also asked foreign countries to stop oil trade with the KRG and deal with the central government in regards to airports and border restrictions. Prime Minister of the Iraqi central government Haider Al-Abadi also ordered the Iraqi security forces in the KRG to protect the citizens who are under pressure and being threatened.

The Iraqi parliament also called yesterday for the oil fields in the disputed Kirkuk city to be handed over to the central government in Baghdad. Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, member of parliament Hakim Zamili said lawmakers approved a resolution according to which oil fields in Kirkuk would be handed over to Baghdad. He said the resolution also calls for state officials, who take part in the Kurdish referendum on the secession of northern Iraq's Kurdish region, to be dismissed.

Meanwhile, media outlet Basnews reported a coup attempt targeting Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim, who was ousted by the Iraqi central government. The attempt was launched by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani.

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