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Iraqi Kurds to hold independence referendum

Parliament reconvened in Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

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Iraqi Kurds to hold independence referendum

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The parliament of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region has approved a plan to hold a referendum on independence on September 25th.

Parliament reconvened in Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

An overwhelming majority of the Kurdish lawmakers taking part backed the plan.

Some lawmakers wore Kurdish flags and rose to clap and sing the national anthem after the vote.

But the vote was boycotted by the main opposition movement?

Yes. The parliament session is the first to be held since the legislature was suspended nearly two years ago.

Only 68 of the 111 lawmakers attended due to a boycott by the main opposition movement, Gorran.

Is there other opposition to the plan?

Yes, from Baghdad and the wider region. There are also Western concerns the vote could spark fresh conflict.

The Baghdad parliament’s decision earlier this week to oppose the referendum drew condemnation from deputies in Erbil.

Iraq’s neighbours Iran and Turkey also oppose the plebiscite, fearing an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

The regional parliament’s decision came despite an intense diplomatic drive by the US, which has provided critical military aid to the KRG’s fight against ISIL, to persuade the Kurdish leadership to cancel the referendum.

Hours after the decision, the White House publicly called for the first time on the KRG to cancel the referendum.

In a statement, officials warned the vote is “distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilise the liberated areas.”

“The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month.”

It urged the KRG to “enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indication it is prepared to facilitate.”

What they are saying

“We’ve been waiting more than 100 years for this. There is no other way to guarantee that genocide will never be repeated,” – Omed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party told the assembly, referring to the persecution and expulsion of Kurds under Saddam Hussein.

“We refuse to accept the Iraqi parliament’s decision, whic was unlawful,” – Turkmen lawmaker Muna Qahwachi told reporters.

“Those assembled in parliament today think this is a lawful session, but this is unlawful,” – Birzu Majeed, the head of Gorran’s parliamentary bloc, told reporters.