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24 September 2017, 12:35 | Floyd Cook
Former US Diplomat: Efforts to Derail Kurdish Referendum Won't Work
Turkey's parliament will also hold an extraordinary session on Saturday to discuss the planned Kurdish referendum and also vote to extend a mandate that allows Turkey's military to intervene in Syria and Iraq.
The president of Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, said Wednesday he had not yet received any offers from the government in Baghdad that could induce him to forgo the referendum on independence.
Kurdish oil is exported north to Turkish ports and at times was the target of attacks from the group calling itself the Islamic State.
Iran and Turkey both have sizeable Kurdish populations of their own and fear the vote will stoke separatist aspirations at home.
His remarks came after repeated calls from Turkey, U.S. and Iran to cancel the vote slated for September 25. "We said we would talk to Baghdad before, during and after the referendum".
Last Monday, the Turkish army launched a highly visible military drill near the Habur border crossing to Iraq.
Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), announced the vote on June 7.
The United States has urged the KRG to cancel the vote, while the U.N. Security Council warned in a statement of its "potentially destabilizing" impact on Iraq.
A "yes" vote in the independence referendum would not spell immediate independence for the Kurdish region, since the referendum does not have legal force.
In reaction to the Kurdish military assertiveness, Turkey sent its troops a year ago into northern Syria, undermining a contiguous Kurdish-held east-to-west territory.
"We're ready for a fight to the death", said Atef Annajar, whose group is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias, adding however that "the leadership is trying to calm the situation".
In a separate development Friday, a spokesman for Iraq's mostly Shiite paramilitary troops known as Popular Mobilization Forces said they have joined the battle against Islamic State militants in the contested province of Kirkuk.
Under Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein government, the Kurds have significant autonomy.
Speaking on behalf of the KRG delegation, Roj Nuri Shaways said they expressed Erbil's determination to hold the referendum, but they could not agree on this with the central government in Baghdad.
More than 5.2 million people are registered to vote.
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