Iraqi PM Calls on Kurds to Cancel Independence Vote Result

Iraqi PM Calls on Kurds  to Cancel Independence  Vote Result
Iraqi PM Calls on Kurds  to Cancel Independence  Vote Result

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi demanded on Wednesday that Kurdish authorities “cancel” the outcome of the independence referendum in northern Iraq, as a condition for dialogue to resolve an escalating crisis.

In a speech to parliament, Abadi renewed his ultimatum to Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government to hand over control of international airports by Friday or face a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region, Reuters reported.

The Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq was approved by more than 92 percent of voters, officials said on Wednesday.

Hendrin Mohammed, the head of the Kurdish region’s election commission, announced the official results at a press conference, saying the referendum passed with 92.73 percent support and turnout of more than 72 percent.

“We won’t have a dialogue about the referendum outcome,” Abadi told parliament. “If they want to start talks, they must cancel the referendum and its outcome.”

His demand was rejected by KRG Transport Minister Mowlud Murad on Wednesday. He told a news conference in the Kurdish capital Erbil that keeping control of airports and maintaining direct international flights to Erbil was necessary for the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

Kurdish leaders say the referendum was held to give them a mandate to negotiate the peaceful secession of their region with Baghdad and Iraq’s powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey.

Murad expressed the hope that the crisis could be resolved by Friday, saying it would damage Kurdistan’s economy.

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority sent a notice on Wednesday to foreign airlines telling them international flights to Erbil and Sulaimaniya in the Kurdish region would be suspended on Friday at 1500 GMT and only domestic flights allowed.

Iran said last week it was stopping flights to Kurdistan at the request of the Iraqi government. Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is suspending its daily flight to Erbil, which has a sizeable Lebanese community, from Friday.

*** Parliament Asks Abadi to Take Back Kirkuk

The Iraqi Parliament on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send troops to the Kurdish-held region of Kirkuk and take control of its oilfields.

Kurdish Pehsmerga fighters took control of Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic region, in 2014 when the Iraqi army fled in the face of IS militants who overran about a third of Iraq.

The Kurdish move prevented the oilfields from falling into the militants’ hands.

The area, historically claimed by the Kurds, is also home to Turkmen and Arab communities. The KRG included it in the independence referendum held on Monday.

“The government has to bring back the oilfields of Kirkuk under the control of the oil ministry,” said the resolution voted by parliament in Baghdad, seen by Reuters.

It called on Abadi to “issue orders for the security forces to deploy in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk”.

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