US Asks Iraqi Kurds to Postpone Referendum

US Asks Iraqi Kurds to Postpone Referendum
US Asks Iraqi Kurds to Postpone Referendum

The United States has asked Iraq’s Kurds to postpone a referendum on the independence of their autonomous Kurdish region, planned for Sept. 25, the Kurdish presidency said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the request on Friday, during a phone call with the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, Reuters reported.

The US State Department said in June it was concerned that the referendum will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the defeat of self-styled Islamic State terror group.

The United States and other western nations are concerned that the vote could turn into another regional flashpoint. Turkey, Iran and Syria, which together with Iraq have sizeable Kurdish populations, all oppose an independent Kurdistan.

  Vote Proceeds as Planned

A high-ranking Kurdish official told Reuters on Saturday that Iraq’s Kurds are sticking to a plan to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, despite the US request.

“The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change,” said Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to KRG President Massoud Barzani.

“On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President (Barzani) stated that the people of the Kurdistan region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future,” said a statement issued on Friday by the KRG, after Tillerson’s call.

IS’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” effectively collapsed last month, when Iraqi forces backed by Popular Mobilizations Units, an umbrella group formed by volunteers which has now been recognized as a military force by the Iraqi parliament, completed the takeover of the militants’ capital in Iraq, Mosul, after a nine-month campaign in which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took part.

The militants remain however in control of territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria.


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