Prime minister, responding to Kurdish referendum plans, says constitution still rules

Kurdish Peshmerga forces celebrate Newroz Day, a festival marking spring and the new year, in Kirkuk March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed/File Photo

Baghdad (  The Iraqi constitution will remain the reference governing relations between Iraq’s central government and Kurdistan autonomous region, the office of Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi said Friday.

The statement by the prime minister’s media office came hours after a Thursday government meeting chaired by Kurdistan region’s president, Masud Barzani, reached a resolution to hold a non-binding referendum on independence from Iraq on September 25th.

“Iraqi relies on the constitution as the reference for shaping the relation between the federal government and Kurdistan region,” the statement by spokesman Saad al-Haditihi read. “No party can decide its fate unilaterally…All Iraqis should have their say regarding their homeland’s fate” it added.

Kurdistan gained autonomous governance based on the 2005 constitution, but is still considered a part of Iraq. The region was created in 1970 based on an agreement with the Iraqi government, ending years of fierce fighting.

Baghdad has routinely warned Erbil of unilateral secession move, urging to postpone the dispute to after the end of the Iraqi war against Islamic State militants who took over large parts of the country in 2014. Kurdish Peshmerga troops have been actively engaged in the battles against IS, and had kept the militants out of areas where Erbil disputes sovereignty with Baghdad, most notably oil-rich Kirkuk.

Both governments in Iraq and Erbil engaged in political spats over regions recaptured by Kurdish Peshmerga (army) troops from the Islamic State militants since campaigns against the group launched in October. While Kurdish politicians and MPs occasionally reiterated they were not going to cede those areas, Baghdad said it was expecting Kurdish troops to pull out after IS is eliminated.


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