Iraqi Kurds to vote on independence in months

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Iraq’s Kurds will hold an independence referendum within months, their leader Masoud Barzani said July1.

Barzani said the time was right for a vote as Iraq was already effectively divided following the gains by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“We will hold a referendum in Kurdistan and we will respect and be bound by the decision of our people and hope that others will do likewise,” he told the BBC. When asked whether the vote would take place soon, Barzani added: “I can’t fix a date right now, but it’s definitely a question of months. But of course it must be decided by Parliament.” The region would need to establish an independent electoral authority before a vote could take place, Barzani noted. The Kurdish leader recently called on the United Nations to aid in arranging a referendum in Kirkuk.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Turkey will never support a disintegrated Iraq after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan as part of a broader alliance with moderate forces across the region.

Arınç said June 30 that the division of the Middle East would best serve the interests of Israel and shows Netanyahu’s desire to bolster Israel’s economic and security ties with the Kurds. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Iraqi Kurdish independence as a fait accompli, but said his country was not taking any action to help the Kurds achieve formal statehood.

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