U.S. urges Iraq Kurdish leader to postpone independence vote

Kurdistan

The Kurdish capital of Erbil

In 2005, Iraq's Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region, run by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Kurdish militants in Kirkuk are tearing down banners critical of a planned referendum on the proposed secession of the northern Kurdish region from Iraq, the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) said Friday.

The vote has drawn criticism from both the Baghdad and Western governments, at a time as the war against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq is still unfinished, the sources said.

"On the issue of postponing the referendum President Barzani said to the US Secretary of State that the kind of coexistence that the Kurdistan Region had worked for with the state of Iraq in the past and over various stages was not implemented, and that is why the people of Kurdistan have chose to take their own path", the Kurdish Presidency said in a statement as quoted by Rudaw broadcaster. The referendum would in any case be non-binding and is strongly opposed by neighbours Iran and Turkey, which have sizeable Kurdish minorities of their own and whose acquiescence is seen as key to achieving a viable separation.

"The date is standing, September 25, no change", said Hoshyar Zebari, a close adviser to president Masoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

A statement from the Kurdish Presidency following the Saturday meeting said that they will negotiate "political issues, future relations between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad", during their visit to Iraq's capital.

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Barzani، for his part، told Tillerson that the planned referendum was aimed at realizing the Kurdish region's longstanding desire for regional coexistence. The Kurdish president declined, saying the United States administration has failed to provide guarantees or an "alternative" that would secure the future of Kurdistan.

In July, Barzani told Reuters that the Kurds would take the responsibility for the expected approval outcome of independence, and pursue its implementation through dialogue with Baghdad and regional powers to avoid conflict.

Earlier in June, US State Department stated it was concerned that the referendum will distract from "more urgent priorities" such as the defeat of ISIS militants.

Barzani's father led struggles against Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s.

Kurdish officials have said disputed areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk region, will be covered by the referendum, to determine whether they would want to remain in Kurdistan.

Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militias have threatened to expel the Kurds by force from this region and three other disputed areas - Sinjar, Makhmour and Khanaqin.

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