Baghdad concerned as Kurdish leaders charge on with referendum

Baghdad concerned as Kurdish leaders charge on with referendum
Iraq's leader has said Baghdad will take all 'necessary measures' to defend the unity of the country, as Iraqi-Kurdistan prepares to vote on independence.
2 min read
24 September, 2017
Massud Barzani and Haider al-Abadi [Getty]
Baghdad will take all "necessary measures" will be taken to protect Iraqi unity Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said on the eve of the Kurdish independence referendum in the latest threat to Erbil.

"To take a unilateral decision affecting the unity of Iraq and its security, and the security of the region, with a referendum on separation is unconstitutional and against civil peace. We will take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country," Abadi said in a televised address.

"We will take the necessary measures to preserve the unity of the country," he said without elaborating.

"We will not abandon the Kurdish citizens. We have rejected the sectarian state and we reject a racial state," Abadi added, referring to both the Islamic State group and Kurdistan.

"Iraq will remain for all Iraqis. We will not allow it to become a possession of one or the other, and we will not permit anyone to play with Iraq and not pay the consequences." 

It came as Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani championed the referendum in defiance of the central government, that his people's "partnership with Baghdad has failed".

"We have reached the conclusion that independence will allow us not to repeat past tragedies," he told a news conference in Erbil, capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country.

"The partnership with Baghdad has failed and we will not return to it," said Barzani, who has resisted pressure from the central government, neighbouring states and Washington to call off the referendum and to negotiate a new deal.

On Friday, he insisted that the 25 September independence referendum will still go ahead, despite regional condemnation of the historic vote.

Since declaring the referendum in June for the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Kurds have faced mounting international pressure to call off the vote.

"The referendum is no longer in my hands, nor is it in those of the (political) parties - it is in your hands," Barzani told a large crowd.

The referendum has caused regional concerns, especially across neighbouring countries Iran and Turkey.

At Baghdad's request, Tehran has imposed a ban on flights to and from Iraq's Kurdish region and Iran in response to 'the insistence' of Kurdish leaders in going ahead with the independence referendum.