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Iraq's Kurdistan to respect court decision banning secession

Safin Hamed, AFP | Iraqi Kurdistan's Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani gives a press conference on November 13, 2017.

Iraqi Kurdish authorities said on Tuesday they would accept a court decision prohibiting the region from seceding, signalling a new phase in efforts to restart stalled negotiations over its future.


Iraq's Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum in September, defying the central government in Baghdad – which had ruled the ballot illegal – as well as neighbouring Turkey and Iran which have their own Kurdish minorities.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday it would respect the November 6 ruling by the Supreme Federal Court, which declared that no Iraqi province could secede.

"We believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between (Kurdish authorities in) Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes," the KRG said in a statement.

Making ‘the best of a bad situation’

The concession marks the Kurds' latest attempt to come to terms with a series of political and diplomatic setbacks following the controversial September 25 independence referendum, which sparked regional economic sanctions against the KRG, as well as a military offensive by Iraqi government forces and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces to wrest back control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.

“The setbacks can be traced from the high hopes for the independence fight, to despair, to resignation, to a drive for reconciliation to make the best of a bad situation,” explained FRANCE 24’s international affairs commentator, Douglas Herbert.

The latest statement came a day after the Kurdistan region’s Foreign Minister, Falah Mustafa, met with Brett McGurk, US special envoy for the anti-Islamic State (IS) group coalition, in Washington.

Responding to Tuesday’s announcement on Twitter, McGurk said it was an “important” and “clear” statement “respecting [the] Iraqi Supreme Court's recent decision interpreting Article 1 of the Iraqi constitution”.

Article 1 of the constitution states that Iraq is “a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state.”

Iraq’s Supreme Court is responsible for settling disputes between the central government in Baghdad and the country's regions and provinces. Its decisions cannot be appealed, though it has no mechanism to enforce its ruling in the Kurdish region.

Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi had previously urged the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region to abide by the court's decision.


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