Iraqi Kurdish parliament votes to hold independence referendum

US Special Envoy: Kurdish Referendum Could Undermine Fight Against IS

Kurdish referendum will not be granted international legitimacy

On Friday, the parliament of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region approved a plan to hold a referendum on independence on 25 September, ignoring Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish opposition as well as U.S. and Western concerns that the vote may cause new conflicts in the region.

Iraqi parliamentarians on Tuesday voted to reject the nonbinding referendum planned to be held on September 25, authorizing the Iraqi prime minister to take all measures necessary to preserve Iraq's unity.

The White House urged Iraq's Kurdish leaders to cancel the September 25 vote on independence, saying the move is a distraction from the efforts to defeat Daesh.

It also called on the regional government "to seize this opportunity and to enter into serious negotiations with Baghdad".

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His remarks followed a meeting in Erbil on Thursday with the USA envoy to the anti-ISIL campaign, Brett McGurk, who attempted to persuade the Kurdish leader to call off the referendum in exchange for a new diplomatic initiative to reach a deal between the Kurds and Baghdad.

The referendum is planned to be held in Kurdistan and disputed areas including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

McGurk said he was optimistic Kurdish leaders would accept an alternative plan that would focus on dialogue between the region and Baghdad and postpone the referendum.

"We still haven't heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum", he said.

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The plan ignored opposition from Baghdad and the wider region as well as Western concerns that the vote could spark fresh conflict.

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

The opposition Gorran, the second-largest party in parliament, and the smaller Kurdistan Islamic Group, boycotted the vote and called it invalid. It is claimed by both the Kurds and the central government in Baghdad.

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