US State Department urges Kurdish parties to work for united Iraq

Iraqi Christians pray in a church. File
Iraqi Christians pray in a church. File

31 October, 2017

The statement appeared to reflect a US belief that the departure of Barzani, whose September 25 independence referendum is widely seen has having backfired, may make it easier for the two main Kurdish factions to work together and to negotiate with the federal government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. They also attacked an opposition member of parliament who had criticized Barzani, according to the Alsumaria news channel.

"Three million votes for Kurdistan independence created history and can not be erased", Mr Barzani said, bitterly accusing his political rivals of "treason" for giving up the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk to central government troops in the fighting sparked by the 25 September vote. The reformist Gorran party opposed the vote, arguing that the timing was poor.

In his statement, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the central government is closely monitoring what he described as "attempts to create chaos and disorder" in Irbil and Dahuk, two cities in the Kurdish region. He appeared pleased with the security forces' quick victory over Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk and emphasised that the central state will now seek to control all of Iraq's borders, as well as its oil pipelines.

Mr Barzani also accused leaders of the PUK, whose founder Jalal Talabani died days after the referendum, of being guilty of "high treason on 16 October".

On Monday, Mr Al Abadi called for calm in the Kurdish region after the reported violence the previous night.

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The move prompted speculation on whether it was Barzani's exit from politics but his senior assistant, Hemin Hawrami, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Barzani "will stay in Kurdish politics and lead the high political council", though as of November 1, he will no longer be president of the region.

Tehran had closed its borders with Iraq's Kurdistan region after it voted for independence in a referendum on September 25.

Iran will lift border restrictions with Iraq's Kurdistan region "in the coming days following a closure after last month's Kurdish vote in favour of independence, the Iranian armed forces chief of staff said". The referendum resulted in more than 92 percent of Iraqi Kurds choosing independence.

It was a gamble on which 71-year-old Massoud Barzani, the veteran Kurdish leader and one-time guerrilla fighter, had staked his political career.

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