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September 27, 2017 11:08 am

Iraqi Kurdish Leader Says Independence Referendum Approved

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Ban Ki-moon, then-secretary general of the United Nations, meets with Masoud Barzani (left), president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and Nechirvan Barzani (right), prime minister of the KRG, in March 2016 in Erbil, Iraq. Photo: UN Photo / Mark Garten. – The leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Masoud Barzani, announced on Tuesday that the Kurds have voted “yes” in their independence referendum.

In a televised address, Barzani called on Iraq’s central government to engage in “serious dialogue” instead of threatening the autonomous Kurdish region, Reuters reported.

The Kurds, who have ruled over the area in northern Iraq since 2003, held the referendum in defiance of the Iraqi government, which has threatened the region with sanctions. Nations such as Turkey, Syria and Iran — which all have significant Kurdish minorities — have also opposed Kurdish independence.

Meanwhile, regarding America’s position, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Monday, “The United States’ historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today’s non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people.”

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Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed Kurdish statehood, saying Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people.” Yet it appears the Israeli leader has backtracked to some extent on his endorsement, reportedly barring government officials from commenting on the referendum.

Nevertheless, Israel has faced a backlash from some allies over its support for Kurdish statehood.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated on Tuesday he would mull severing ties with Israel if the Jewish state does not withdraw its support for an independent Kurdish state.

“If Israel does not reconsider its support for Kurdish independence, Turkey could not take any steps [with Israel],” Erdogan said, the Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah reported.

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