White House: Kurdish Independence Referendum 'Distracting' from ISIS Fight

Karim to continue as Kirkuk Governor says Iraqi Parliament’s dismissal ‘illegal

Parliament reconvened in Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, where an overwhelming majority of the Kurdish lawmakers taking part backed the plan.

His remarks followed a meeting in Erbil on Thursday with the USA envoy to the anti-ISIL campaign, Brett McGurk, who attempted to persuade the Kurdish leader to call off the referendum in exchange for a new diplomatic initiative to reach a deal between the Kurds and Baghdad.

Critics of the vote, including the United States and the European Union and even some members of Iraq's 5.5 million-strong Kurdish minority, say it could distract from the fight against jihadists.

"That is why the United Kingdom has proposed new talks between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Government of Iraq on the future of the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad", said the Saturday statement, adding that such talks should be time limited and address all the issues of dispute between the two parties without preconditions.

The region's vice-president Jaafar Aimenky, who chaired the session, announced the poll would go ahead after 65 out of 68 lawmakers present voted in favour.

"The United Nations might get involved in the controversy over the KRG's independence referendum plans in the upcoming days", he said.

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Kirkuk is home to sizeable Arab and Turkmen populations and lies outside the official boundaries of the Kurdistan region. It has several military bases in the Kurdistan region and also holds considerable leverage over the KRG due to its large economic footprint and the fact that it is the only major outlet for Kurdish oil exports.

Iran, Turkey and the U.S. also object to the vote, fearing further instability.

Opposition parties Goran and Jamaa Islamiya earlier said they would boycott the session.

Holding a planned referendum on Kurdish regional independence in Kirkuk "will only allow Kurdish forces to take over disputed areas", Mimaroglu said, going on to warn: "This hegemony will pose a threat to everyone in these territories". But relations with Baghdad have grown strained in recent years over oil and the disputed areas.

There is widespread support among Iraqi Kurds for an independent state. It is claimed by both the Kurds and the central government in Baghad.

Iraq's Kurdish region has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the US imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq after the 1990 Gulf War.

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