Iraq's Kurdistan 'will respect' court decision banning secession
Authorities in Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, have said they will respect the federal court's decision prohibiting the region from seceding. The announcement came as the region faces tensions after Kurdistan held an independence referendum in September, in which the majority of people backed secession from Iraq.
As IBTimes writes in an article "Iraq's Kurdistan 'will respect' court decision banning secession", in spite of an overwhelming "yes" vote, the referendum is not legally binding. Kurdish authorities intend to use it to pressurise Baghdad into starting negotiations and formalise independence.
"We believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between Erbil [the Kurdish regional capital] and Baghdad to resolve all disputes," the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The statement is seen as the latest efforts by KRG to start a dialogue with Baghdad that can lead to a peaceful breakaway.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had previously urged the region to abide by the court's ruling, issued earlier in November. Iraq deemed the referendum unconstitutional and warned there would be consequences. It imposed an "air embargo" on Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, its second city.
Shortly after, Iraqi troops took control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk after advancing in Kurdish-controlled territories. Iraqi soldiers captured the Kurdish government headquarters buildings and seized several districts and oil fields, prompting thousands of Kurdish civilians to flee Kirkuk.
Kirkuk is not part of the Kurdistan region, but its people took part in the referendum and overwhelmingly backed independence. Peshmerga fighters had advanced into Kirkuk to counter the Islamic State (Isis) terror group, which seized several areas of the country. But now Isis is progressively losing territories in the country, the Kurds' fight to gain independence has gained new momentum.
The referendum was also opposed by Turkey and Iran, who urged Kurdish officials to call it off. They fear that the vote could spark independence sentiments among Kurdish populations in their own countries.
US President Donald Trump said he would not take any side in the crisis, but called on both parties to find a peaceful solution. "We've had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we've also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been there in the first place," Trump told reporters at the the White House, according to Reuters. He said Washington would not take sides, but added that "we don't like the fact that they're clashing".