UNSC warns against Kurdish independence referendum

Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/@Erfan.Kurdi

United Nations: The United Nations Security Council has expressed concern over the ‘potentially destabilizing impact’ of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s plans to unilaterally hold a referendum next week, adding its weight to international opposition to the vote.

The UN Security Council has warned that secessionist referendum could threaten the ongoing war against ISIS.

In a unanimous statement on Thursday, the 15-member council also said the referendum could hinder efforts to help the 3 million refugees and displaced persons in the north of Iraq to return home.

“Council members note that the planned referendum is scheduled to be held while counter-Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) operations — in which Kurdish forces have played a critical role — are ongoing, and could detract from efforts to ensure the safe, voluntary return of over 3 million refugees and internally displaced persons,” the UNSC statement reads.

The Kurds make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in West Asia and have long wanted to have a separate state of their own.

The Security Council urged the Kurdistan Regional Government, which has called for the referendum, to settle its issues with the Iraqi government through constitutional methods, dialogue and compromise. The council also expressed “full support for United Nations efforts to facilitate dialogue between Iraqi stakeholders”.

The move has heightened pressure on Iraqi Kurd leaders to call off the vote after Turkey, Iran and Iraq urged them to abandon the plan that is also opposed by the United States.

Iraqi Kurds will vote on September 25 in the non-binding referendum on whether to declare independence in a region that has already been autonomous since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had also said that all outstanding issues between the two parties should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.

The Security-General also urged the Iraqi Kurds to scrap the referendum and offered UN help to negotiate a new political deal between Baghdad and the Kurds.

Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has been adamantly pressing ahead with his plans to hold the September 25 vote. Although Barzani’s administration might agree to postpone the referendum at least until the end of negotiations.

Neighbors Turkey and Iran, as well as the United States, have pleaded for the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to settle its differences with Baghdad through negotiations rather than secession.

Israel is the only country openly supporting Kurdish independence.

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