Iraqi Kurds offer to freeze vote result to defuse crisis

BAGHDAD: The government of Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan has offered to freeze the outcome of last month’s controversial independence referendum in order to prevent further violence and facilitate dialogue with Baghdad. “Continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the Kurdish government said in a statement late on Tuesday.
Consequently, it was offering an “immediate ceasefire” in the Kurdistan region, a freezing of the referendum results and the launching of an “open dialogue” with the federal government in Baghdad.
There has been no official comment from Baghdad, which has been at loggerheads with Kurdistan in northern Iraq since the September 25 referendum. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi is currently visiting neighbouring Turkey as part of a trip that will also take him to Iran.
Some pro-government lawmakers in Baghdad on Wednesday urged the central government to reject Kurdistan’s offer.
“The government has to reject any negotiations with rebels in northern Iraq until they announce the cancellation of the results of the referendum,” MP Alia Nasif said in a press statement.
She dismissed the Kurdish initiative as a “ruse aimed at wasting time.”
An overwhelming majority of 92 per cent of Kurds supported independence in the referendum that was also held in disputed areas including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.
Baghdad had repeatedly demanded the cancellation of the result of the vote before it could enter into dialogue with Kurdistan.
Baghdad imposed an international flight ban on Kurdistan following the vote, which it condemned as unconstitutional.
Last week, Iraqi forces supported by pro-government militias retook control of Kirkuk and other areas controlled by the Kurds outside Kurdistan.
The plebiscite has alarmed neighbours Turkey, Iran and Syria, all of which are concerned that it will encourage their own Kurdish minorities to split. — Agencies