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Barzani: Iraqi Kurds to vote on independence in September

08 June 2017

Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, says Iraqi Kurds will hold a referendum on independence on September 25.

Due to how Iraqi Kurdistan exports its oil, Turkey potentially has both an effective veto over independence in general, and a ready means to apply huge pressure to any fledgling state's economy if it did split from Iraq. The ethnic group is striving to create their own independent state.

Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdish government's Security Council and son of President Barzani, said in June past year Iraq should be divided into separate Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish entities to prevent further sectarian bloodshed. It gained autonomous governance status as part of the 2005 constitution, but is still considered part of Iraq.

The referendum date was set after a meeting of Kurdish political parties chaired by Barzani, who heads the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

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Hemim Hawrami, a senior adviser to Barzani, said on Twitter that the referendum will cover Iraqi Kurdistan, including the disputed city of Kirkuk as well as Khanqin, Sinjar and Makhmor.

Neighboring Iran, Turkey and Syria also oppose Iraqi Kurdish independence out of fear that separatism would spread to the substantial Kurdish populations in their own countries.

The Kurds are playing a major role in the US -backed campaign to defeat Islamic State (IS), the ultra-hardline Sunni Islamist group that overran about a third of Iraq three years ago and also controls parts of Syria. ISIS militants routed the Iraqi security forces and took control of much of the country's north in 2014.

"The President, along with the representatives of the political parties and slates decided that the date for the independence referendum shall be Monday, September 25, 2017".

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The president of Iraq's ruling Shi'ite coalition told Reuters in April it would oppose a Kurdish referendum. "Rather, the vote will give Kurdish negotiators a public mandate to recalibrate relations with Baghdad, take another small step toward autonomy, and get some closure on disputed territories".

Hemin Hawrami, assistant to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, tweeted: "big news".

Importantly, Gorran (Change), the second largest party in the Kurdistan parliament, and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan, did not participate in the meeting calling an independence vote, which comes as the parliament has been shuttered since 2015 over political infighting. "We are legally capable of holding the referendum without consulting Baghdad", the KRG official said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in April that he respects the Kurdish right to vote on independence, but he did not think the timing was right for the move.

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"There is no chance that these results will lead to Kurdish statehood".

Barzani: Iraqi Kurds to vote on independence in September