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Iraq’s Kurdistan leader says recent referendum won’t be in vain

The president of Iraq’s Kurdistan has said the independence vote recently held throughout the region won’t be in vain.

On Tuesday, Masoud Barzani further vowed to preserve what he referred to as the achievements of the Kurds despite their defeat in Kirkuk.

He went on to blame the setback on unilateral decisions by Kurdish politicians. “What happened in the city of Kirkuk was due to unilateral decision of certain officials within an internal political party in Kurdistan, which eventually led to withdrawal of Peshmerga.”

Kurdish forces have been holding parts of the Iraqi territory since 2014, when Daesh began an offensive across Iraq and the Kurds began fighting it and overran the territory in the process.

The Baghdad government has long insisted that the Kurds pull out of the territories they had overrun, but the Kurdish militants have refused. Ever since a controversial referendum on secession in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 25, the Iraqi government has lost patience, sending security forces to retake the Kurdish-held areas.

Meanwhile, the Israeli regime is appearing as a staunch supporter of the region’s separation “because it splits up the Arab world,” according to Ian Williams, a senior analyst at Foreign Policy in Focus.

“Any time they pick one, they’re going to annoy an ally. They cannot afford the collapse of the Iraqi government… they need it against ISIL (Daesh),” Williams said.

“But if they support the Kurds too much they internally alienate Turkey,” he added.

Baghdad also ordered the Kurdistan region to swiftly hand over its border crossings and airports. The region refused and later sent thousands of Peshmerga and other militants to Kirkuk province, which it has been claiming in its entirety for long.

A thing of the past

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that the Kurdish independence vote “is a thing of the past” and that negotiations must now begin in accordance with the constitution.

“I call for dialogue on the basis of partnership in one country and under the constitution. The referendum is finished and has become a thing from the past. It happened in the past and its outcome has finished,” said Abadi during a press conference in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Iraqi army artillery are seen on a road southwest of Kirkuk on October 17, 2017.

“We hope that they would cancel it, but we have finished it on the ground. Referendum is finished and we need to start dialogue under the constitution and on the bases of mutual rights and national partnership. I aver that we are partners in one country,” the Iraqi premier added.

Sitting down for negotiations

Earlier, Iraqi President Fuad Masum called on Erbil and Baghdad to enter negotiations in order to solve their problems, and stressed that the Kurdish independence referendum was to blame for Baghdad’s military intervention.

“Holding a referendum on the Kurdistan independence from Iraq stirred grave disagreements between the central government and the government of Kurdistan,” he said.

He added that the referendum “led to federal security forces retaking direct control of Kirkuk,” after making “strenuous efforts” to reach a peaceful solution.

The “grave crisis… broke out between the federal government and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan because the latter insisted on unilaterally holding the referendum,” he emphasized.

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