February 22, 2018

Iraqi Kurdistan referendum: Kurds freeze independence result

26 October 2017, 12:38 | Rufus Hill

KRG Secessionist Move Undermined Kurdish Interests

KRG Secessionist Move Undermined Kurdish Interests

Relations between Baghdad and Ankara were strained a year ago over Turkey's presence at the Bashiqa military base in northern Iraq, where around 500 troops were training local fighters ahead of the successful operation to free Mosul from the Islamic State group. But Reuters reported on Wednesday that an Iraqi military offensive "would continue regardless".

Speaking alongside visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Ankara, Erdogan also said that talks were underway on possibly closing down the border.

Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region on Wednesday offered to freeze the results of its controversial independence vote last month as part of a dialogue with Baghdad.

In a statement to media after meeting Abadi, Erdogan said they discussed what political, military and economic steps they could take after what he called the "illegitimate" Iraqi Kurdish referendum last month.

The leaders have had tense relations in the past but appear to have found common ground recently in their mutual opposition to moves by Kurdish leaders in Iraq to push for independence from Baghdad. Neighboring Iran and Turkey, which are battling Kurdish insurgencies within their own borders, are especially on edge. So far, 30,000 Kurds have been displaced in less than two weeks as a result of fighting and looting.

Baghdad is demanding that the Kurds hand over a disputed pipeline they have used to export oil through Turkey. Though the Iraqi Kurdish referendum was a non-binding vote, both Turkey and Iraq strongly opposed it.

The fighting between the central government and the Kurds is particularly tricky for the United States which is close allies of both sides, arming and training both the Kurds and the central government's army to fight against ISIS.

But it caused Kurds to flee en masse from Tuz Khurmato, a multi-ethnic city south of Kirkuk where sectarian tension flared after Iraqi forces took control, humanitarian organisations said.

According to results announced by the KRG, nearly 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence.

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