Erbil-Baghdad talks collapse on eve of referendum

Erbil-Baghdad talks collapse on eve of referendum
A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government held talks with the Iraqi ruling Shia coalition in Baghdad, two days before a controversial independence referendum that seeks to split the country.
2 min read
24 September, 2017
A team from the KRG held talks with Baghdad's ruling Shia coalition [Getty]
A delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government held talks with the Iraqi ruling Shia coalition in Baghdad on Saturday, two days before a planned referendum on secession from Iraq.

The Kurdish delegation met with representatives of the Shia ruling coalition in Baghdad, and with the Iraqi president, Fuad Masum, himself a Kurd, whose role is largely ceremonial.

Ali Allaq, from the Shia National Alliance, said at a press conference that Erbil still has time to cancel the vote "before it is too late" and to respect the Iraqi constitution and an interim ruling from the Iraqi Supreme Court that suspended the vote, Rudaw reported.
He said if the vote is held, there will be "big consequences" from Iraq and other countries.

Rozh Nuri Shaweys, the head of the Kurdistan delegation, said they visited Baghdad to explain the position of the Kurdistan leadership.
"Their view was dialogue before the referendum and our view was dialogue before and after the referendum," Shaweys said.

The KRG has said the vote is intended to give its autonomous territory a legitimate mandate to achieve independence from Iraq through dialogue with Baghdad and neighbouring powers Turkey and Iran.

Ankara and Tehran are worried that the vote could revive the separatist aspirations of their own Kurdish populations.

Executive powers are concentrated in the hands of the prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, a Shia. Abadi's office said he didn't meet the delegation.

Hemin Hawrami, an assistant to Barzani, tweeted: "Our delegation in Baghdad to deliver a message: We're ready for talks after 25/9."

Turkey said on Saturday it would take security and other steps in response to the planned referendum, which it called a "terrible mistake".

The Turkish parliament convened for a debate and vote on extending a mandate that authorises Turkish troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim alluded to possible military moves.

The United States has urged the KRG to cancel the vote, while the UN Security Council warned in a statement of its "potentially destabilising" impact on Iraq.

Washington and other Western powers say the vote distracts from the fight against the Islamic State militant group.

The KRG counters that its Peshmerga fighters have made a crucial contribution to that fight.

The first round of talks between the Kurdistan delegation and the Shia Alliance took place last month and ended without any real progress.

Agencies contributed to this report.