KRG vote heightens tensions in Iraq, neighboring countries

DAILY SABAH WITH WIRES
ISTANBUL
Published 26.09.2017 20:37

Statements from regional and international powers denouncing the independence referendum of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) continue after votes began to be counted on Monday night.

The vote is heightening tensions with Iraq's national government and neighboring countries. The Iraqi central government's opposing stance on the KRG vote has not wavered, as Baghdad reiterated its strong objection to the referendum, regardless of its outcome.

"We are not ready to discuss or engage in dialogue regarding the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on Monday night.

Iraqi lawmakers are also lobbying to sack President Fuad Masum and Kurdish members of parliament.

Member of parliament Hassan Khalati said yesterday that signatures are being collected by lawmakers to sack Masum, a Kurd, for "failing to respect his oath of office."

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Monday that Turkey, Iran and the Iraqi central government should come together to find a mutual solution for the controversial referendum.

"If a mutual solution is found, Turkey will be able to make significant progress," Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters at Ankara's Esenboğa Airport before leaving for Istanbul.

The CHP chairman also underlined the importance of a consensus within the Turkish parliament regarding the KRG vote. Parliament voted Saturday to extend the military mandate for Iraq and Syria for another year.

Turkey also has removed three television channels based in Northern Iraq, including Kurdish news agency Rudaw, from its Turk Sat satellite over broadcasting violations implemented as a result of the KRG referendum.

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to remove Rudaw TV, K-24 TV and Waar TV for "their broadcasting policies which undermine the international agreements signed by Turkey and violate the provisions of the law."

The move comes as voters in areas under KRG control, including disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil, voted Monday in a referendum on whether to secede from Iraq.

Arab league renewed calls for Iraqis to heal rifts and engage in dialogue under Arab and international guarantees to resolve contentious issues, in a statement on yesterday.

"It's still possible to contain repercussions of this [referendum] if concerned parties acted with wisdom and responsibility," League's Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheit said.

The U.S. warned that the referendum to break away from Baghdad will "increase instability" in the region.

"The U.S. is deeply disappointed that the [KRG] decided to conduct today a unilateral referendum on independence, including in areas outside of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. "The U.S.'s historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan region will not change in light of today's non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people."

Meanwhile, the EU expressed its frustration in a written statement that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ignored calls to cancel Sunday's independence referendum.

"The EU has consistently confirmed its full support for the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. It therefore appealed for the referendum not to be held in this unilateral manner, and especially not in disputed areas. It regrets that these calls have not been heeded." The statement added that the EU appeals to all parties to exercise calm and restraint and to make a renewed commitment to resolve all pending issues across the political and economic spectrum through peaceful and constructive dialogue leading to a mutually agreed solution within the framework of the Iraqi constitution. "Iraqi unity remains essential in order to face the remaining threat posed by Daesh, the daunting task of reconstruction in the liberated areas, and the essential challenge of building a stable, secure, inclusive and prosperous Iraq in the interest of all Iraqi people. The EU stands ready to support such a dialogue," the statement released yesterday said.

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