Iraqi Kurdish referendum 'historic mistake': Turkey

Marie Harrington
September 15, 2017

Iraqi lawmakers today voted to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim from his post following a request by Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi.

Western powers are anxious that the referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, which includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, may divert attention from the war against the Islamic State.

A parliamentary majority in Baghdad voted in opposition to the September 25 referendum planned by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) prompting Kurdish lawmakers to walk out of the session, which was attended by 204 of parliament's 328 members.

Ankara is also concerned about the presence of the Syrian Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG) in the border area, fearing an autonomous Kurdish region could also emerge in northern Syria.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said: "We stress the KRG needs to consider that there will absolutely be a price for insisting on... holding a referendum despite all the friendly suggestions [to do otherwise]". But the ethnically mixed city also has Arab and Turkmen populations.

Since the KRG announced its plan to hold the referendum, most Western powers, including the United States and European Union, have voiced concerns that the poll could ignite a new round of conflict between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan, threatening regional stability and distracting from the fight against terrorism.

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Israel supports the creation of a Kurdish state.

"The right [to remove the governor from office] belongs to the people of Kirkuk, not the Iraqi parliament", the statement read.

"He [McGurk] called me saying that "this is a wrong decision" and that they know that this decision should not have taken place".

Zebari said on Thursday that the vote would still be held in Kirkuk.

Kurdish MPs in Iraq's parliament boycotted Thursday's vote, which produced a majority for the governor's removal, lawmaker Husham al-Suhail told Reuters. He refused to give details.

"This referendum is ill-timed and ill-advised, it is not something we can support", he said, regarding the US' backing for the Sep.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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