Iraq MPs declare Kurdish independence vote 'unconstitutional'


Iraqi parliament authorises prime minister to 'take all measures' to preserve Iraq's unity in face of 25 September vote

Members of the Iraqi parliament gather to vote on Iraq's new government line-up at the parliament in Baghdad (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 13 September 2017 9:01 UTC

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.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. Netanyahu's comments come on the heels of a speech given a few days ago by Former Israeli army deputy chief, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan in a Washington conference, in which he expressed support for Kurdish independence and said that the Kurdish PKK fighting Turkey is not a terrorist organisation.
"This referendum lacks a constitutional basis and thus it is considered unconstitutional," the Iraq parliamentary resolution said, without specifying which measures the central government should take.
"Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the session but the decision to reject the referendum was passed by a majority," Mohammed al-Karbouli, a Sunni Muslim lawmaker, said.
A senior Kurdish official dismissed the vote as non-binding, though an Iraqi lawmaker said it would be published in the official gazette after approval from the Iraqi presidency.

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.