A stark warning for Iraq's Kurds

A stark warning for Iraq's Kurds
By Catherine Hardy with ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi describes plans for a vote on independence as "playing with fire"


Iraq is prepared to intervene militarily if the Kurdish region’s planned independence referendum results in violence.

The country’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made the statement to the Associated Press news agency on Saturday.

He described plans for the vote on September 25 as “playing with fire0”.

Tensions between Irbil and Baghdad have flared in the lead-up to the vote.

What did Abadi say?

That if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.”

“If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well, which is a very dangerous escalation,” al-Abadi said.

The leaders of Iraq’s Kurdish region have said they hope the referendum will push Baghdad to come to the negotiating table and create a path for independence.

However, al-Abadi said any such negotiations would be complicated by the referendum vote.

“It will make it harder and more difficult, but I will never close the door to negotiations. Negotiations are always possible.”

Al-Abadi says he is focued on legal responses to the Kurdish referendum on independence. Earlier this week, Iraq’s parliament rejected the referendum in a vote boycotted by Kurdish lawmakers.

What is the referendum plan?

On September 25, Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to hold the referendum to assess support for independence.

It will be held in three governorates that make up their autonomous region and also in disputed areas controlled by Kurdish forces but which are claimed by Baghdad.

How important is the concept of statehood for Iraq’s Kurds?

Very. It is a long-held dream for them. They were brutally oppressed under Saddam Hussein and tens of thousands died.

A regional government was established in 1992 after the US enforced a no-fly zone across the north following the Gulf War.

After the 2003 US-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein, the region secured constitutional recognition of its autonomy but remained part of the Iraqi state.

Is there any other opposition to the vote?

Yes. Iraq’s Kurds have come under increasing pressure to call off the vote from regional powers and the US, a key ally, as well as Baghdad.

In a statement released late on Friday, the White House called for the Kurdish region to call off the referendum “and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”

“Holding a referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilising,” the statement read.

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