UN urges Iraqi Kurds to drop referendum, hold talks

Iraq’s Kurdistan region’s President Massoud Barzani speaks during his meets with clerics and elders from the cities of the Kurdistan region in Erbil August 9, 2017. — Reuters pic
Iraq’s Kurdistan region’s President Massoud Barzani speaks during his meets with clerics and elders from the cities of the Kurdistan region in Erbil August 9, 2017. — Reuters pic

BAGHDAD, Sept 16 — The United Nations has urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to drop plans for an independence referendum and enter talks with Baghdad aimed at reaching a deal within three years.

Jan Kubis, the top UN envoy in Iraq, offered international backing for immediate negotiations between the country’s federal government and the autonomous Kurdish region. 

In a document seen by AFP, he proposed “structured, sustained, intensive and result-oriented partnership negotiations... on how to resolve all the problems and outstanding issues” between Baghdad and Arbil.

The Kurdish Regional Government is embroiled in long-standing disputes with the federal government over oil exports, budget payments and control of ethnically divided areas. 

Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on Friday approved holding the referendum in the face of fierce opposition both from Baghdad and the Kurds’ international backers.

Kubis called for talks, overseen by the UN Security Council, that would aim to reach a deal defining “principles and arrangements” for future relations between  Baghdad and the KRG.

In return, Barzani’s administration would agree to postpone the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.

“Here is this offer, if they accept this alternative, there will be negotiations,” Kubis told AFP. 

He said he hoped to hear from Barzani “in the next two or three days”.

“I hope they will consider the options and I am waiting for their answer,” he said. — AFP

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