Masoud Barzani will hand over presidential powers on November 1

Kurdistan Region’s veteran leader Masoud Barzani will not extend his presidential term beyond November 1, a Kurdish government official said on Saturday.

His decision came just weeks after a referendum on Kurdish independence backfired and triggered a crisis for Iraq’s Kurds who had been enjoying a period of unprecedented autonomy. A plan to divide up the president’s powers was outlined in a letter Barzani sent to the Kurdish parliament on Saturday, the official told Reuters. The plan asks parliament to distribute the president’s powers among the government, parliament and judiciary. Barzani’s current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held. However, those elections were delayed indefinitely last week, amidst an escalating regional crisis.

Critics say the Sept. 25 independence referendum, orchestrated and championed by the 71-year-old Barzani, has left a bleak outlook for Iraq’s Kurds. Less than four weeks after Kurds in the region voted overwhelmingly to break away from Iraq, the central government launched a military offensive to wrest back the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds regard as both their spiritual homeland, and a key source of revenue for their would-be independent state. It was one of several retaliatory measures taken by Baghdad, which vehemently opposed the referendum. In a matter of days the Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country, exerting tremendous pressure on Barzani to step aside and wrecking decades-old dreams of Kurdish independence. Iraqi forces have continued to advance on all Kurdish-held territory outside the autonomous region’s borders.

Iraq’s prime minister demanded on Thursday that Kurds declare their independence referendum void, rejecting the Kurdish autonomous region’s offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks. Earlier this year, Barzani said he did not intend to stand in the November elections. However, prior to the referendum, few expected he would stick to his promise. Barzani has held the office of the presidency since 2005. The region last held a presidential election in 2009, in which Barzani won. His term of office expired in 2013 and was extended twice. The president is expected to address his people before his term formally expires, marking the end of a storied career.

Barzani was born in 1946, soon after his legendary father, Mulla Mustafa, founded a party to fight for the rights of Iraq’s Kurds. After decades spent fighting with the Peshmerga, Barzani became a central figure in the drive to create an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Barzani’s letter will be discussed by parliament on Sunday, though the government official said it was unclear whether ministers would need to vote the plan into action during the session.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/Reuters

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Kurdistan Regional Government offers to freeze referendum results: statement

The Kurdistan Regional Government in a statement early on Wednesday offered to freeze the results of an earlier referendum on independence as part of an offer to defuse the crisis with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

The statement also calls for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to all military operations in Kurdistan Region. The KRG calls for an open dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad based on the country’s constitution.

As Iraq and Kurdistan are faced with grave and dangerous circumistances, we are all obliged to act responsibily in order to prevent further violence and clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.
Attacks and confrontations between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces that started on October 16, 2017, especially today’s clashes, have caused damage to both sides and could lead to a continuous bloodshed, inflicting pain and social unrest among different components of Iraqi society.
Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life.
Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities and obligations towards the people of Kurdistan and Iraq, we propose the following to the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi and world public opinion:

1. Immediate ceasefire and halt all military operations in the Kurdistan Region.
2. Freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan.
3. Start an open dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Federal Government on the basis of the Constitution.

Kurdistan Regional Government
October 24, 2017

Lavrov: Russia respects Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty

Russia respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq, all problems in the country should be resolved through dialogue with the participation of all ethnic, confessional and political groups, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Moscow.

“I would like to reaffirm our commitment to the respect of the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Iraq, the commitment to ensure that all problems that arise are resolved through an inclusive national dialogue with participation and consideration of the interests of all ethnic, religious and political groups,” Lavrov said.

Sources: Syria & Iraq News/RIA

 

UN’s Guterres says Kurdistan referendum would ‘detract’ from the need to defeat Daesh

The Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres has released a statement on the upcoming Kurdistan Region independence referendum, claims that ‘any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL’ and reiterates his respect for the ‘sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq’.

The Secretary-General believes that any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL, as well as the much-needed reconstruction of the regained territories and the facilitation of a safe, voluntary and dignified return of the more than three million refugees and internally displaced people.

The Secretary-General respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and considers that all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.

The Secretary-General calls upon the leaders across Iraq to approach this matter with patience and restraint. The United Nations stands ready to support such efforts.

António Guterres

Source: United Nations/Syria & Iraq News

U.S. asks Barzani to ‘postpone’ KRG independence referendum

Unites States government has asked the Kurdistan Regional Government to ‘postpone’ the independence referendum planned for September 25 and reiterates that “the issues between the Kurdistan Region and the federal government in Baghdad should be addressed through dialogue between the two sides”.

Rex Tillerson

KRG president Masoud Barzani‏ announced on Friday night that he held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and that the top US diplomat expressed the request of the US government for the postponement of the referendum. According to the announcement, president Barzani “expressed his gratitude to the people and government of the United States for their support to the Kurdistan Region, especially against the terrorists of the Islamic State. On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future.”

It is the first time the U.S. government explicitly expresses its opposition to the referendum, while it is worth noting that Barzani did not reject the request, but asked for ‘guarantees’.

Update 1 – 12/8/2017 10:00 GMT | Zebari: “The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change”

Barzani’s close adviser Hoshyar Zebari says that the referendum date has not change despite the U.S. request to postpone it. “The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change”, he told Reuters on Saturday.