Iraqi parliament authorises prime minister to 'take all measures' to preserve Iraq's unity in face of 25 September vote
Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject a referendum on Kurdish independence planned for 25 September, authorising the prime minister to "take all measures" to preserve Iraq's unity, lawmakers said.
Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session before the vote and issued statements afterwards rejecting the decision.
Western powers fear a plebiscite in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region - including the oil city of Kirkuk - could ignite conflict with the central government in Baghdad and divert attention from the war against Islamic State group militants.
The Kurdish parliament will definitely have a response to the resolution when it convenes on Thursday
- Hoshiyar Zebari, senior adviser to KRG president
"The Kurdish parliament will definitely have a response to the resolution when it convenes on Thursday," said Hoshiyar Zebari, former Iraqi foreign and finance minister and now a senior adviser to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani.
Barzani had said he wants to pursue independence though dialogue without provoking a conflict.
A Kurdish delegation met officials in Baghdad for a first round of talks in August concerning the referendum. An Iraqi delegation was expected to visit Erbil in early September for a second round of talks, but the visit has yet to happen with less than two weeks to go before the vote.
Turkey, along with Iraq, Iran and Syria, also opposes the idea of Iraqi Kurdish independence, fearing separatism could spread to their own Kurdish populations.
Kurds have sought an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East and left Kurdish-populated territory split between modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Speaker Salim al-Juburi, a Sunni Arab, said the vote required the government to "take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialogue" with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.