Iraqi Kurdish parliament approves independence referendum

Iraqi Kurds celebrate while urging people to vote in the upcoming independence referendum in Arbil the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq

However, Kurdish officials say they will use it to pressure the Iraqi government in Baghdad to come to the negotiating table and formalize their independence bid.

On Friday, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said the vote would not be delayed, despite requests from the United States and other Western powers anxious that tensions between Baghdad and Erbil would distract from the war on Islamic State militants who continue to occupy parts of Iraq and Syria.

Iraq's central government rejected the referendum as unconstitutional on Tuesday. "Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing".

In a statement in Washington, the White House urged Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.

The results will be binding on President Masoud Barzani and the Kurdish government, which agreed to hold the referendum after a June 7 meeting.

A security guard is seen at the Tawke oil refinery near the village of Zacho in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan
Baghdad not to recognize outcome of Kurdish independence vote, Armenian analyst says

Earlier, the two major Kurdish parties of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that the Parliament session, originally scheduled on Thursday, would be delayed to late Friday to convince Goran Movement and the Islamic group to attend the first parliament session in two years.

A "yes" vote in the independence referendum would not spell immediate independence for the Kurdish region, since the referendum does not have legal force.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview on Friday that Barzani's decision not to postpone the referendum was "very wrong".

In recent years, there have been tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan over power-sharing, oil revenues and territorial disputes. Gorran wants elections, restoration of the constitution and for Barzani to step down.

Moves toward independence are strongly opposed by Baghdad. It is also created to strengthen Barzani's position as a Kurdish nationalist leader. While Baghdad recognizes Kurdistan's autonomy, the precise boundary between the region and the rest of Iraq is unclear.

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