U.S. urges Iraqi Kurdish region to call off independence referendum

Karim to continue as Kirkuk Governor says Iraqi Parliament’s dismissal ‘illegal

Rex Tillerson, the USA secretary of state, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, were attempting to persuade President Barzani of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region (KAR) to accept negotiations with the central authorities in Baghdad for a new timetable.

"The meeting will discuss the referendum of the Kurdistan region, which will be on 25 September, and will respond to the decision made earlier by the Iraqi parliament, which rejected this referendum", said Tariq Jowhar, media advisor of the Parliament, said on Friday.

"The United States has repeatedly emphasised to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilise the liberated areas", the White House said in a statement on Friday following the vote by Kurdish lawmakers.

"The UK calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

Last Thursday, Iraqi lawmakers voted to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim from his post based on a request by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The regional parliament's decision came despite an intense diplomatic drive by the United States, which has provided critical military aid to the KRG's fight against Daesh, to persuade the Kurdish leadership to cancel the referendum.

"We launched this petition to protest the council's failure to implement decisions taken by the central administration, represented by the Iraqi parliament", Mimaroglu said.

The parliament reconvened on Friday in Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.




Sixty-five members of parliament voted in favour of holding the referendum for the Kurdistan region.

The opposition Gorran, the second-largest party in parliament, and the smaller Kurdistan Islamic Group, boycotted the vote and called it invalid.

Ankara, which has warned the referendum would come at a "cost", has close economic and political relations with the KRG and Barzani.

KRG leader Masoud Barzani on September 15 said that the referendum will be held as planned despite objections from Baghdad, Turkey, the United States and other Western nations.

"Even if the independence referendum is held, Baghdad will not recognize its outcome". Irbil and Baghdad have always been in disagreement over oil revenues and contracts the Kurdistan region has signed with oil companies.

The parliament session was the first held since the legislature was suspended almost two years ago, though only 68 of 111 lawmakers attended due to a boycott by the main opposition movement Gorran.

Kirkuk is the capital of the oil-rich province of the same name which is disputed by the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

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