Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formally demanded suspension of the upcoming Kurdish independence referendum amid the central government’s strong opposition to the planned vote.
The demand came after Iraq’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the deferral of the September 25 referendum to examine whether such a poll would be constitutional.
“The Supreme Court has issued the order to suspend organizing the referendum set for September 25… until it examines the complaints it has received over this plebiscite being unconstitutional,” the court said in a statement.
The court added in the statement that the decision was taken after it “reviewed requests to stop the referendum.”
“We have received several complaints and this is why we decided to suspend the referendum,” the Supreme Court spokesman, Ayas al-Samouk, said.
On Saturday, Abadi said Kurdish authorities were “playing with fire” by planning to hold a referendum on the independence of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
“A sincere and brotherly call to the leaders in Kurdistan: the decision of referendum is a dangerous one. I consider it playing with fire. This decision poses the biggest danger to our citizens in Kurdistan,” Abadi told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.
Iraqi Kurdish lawmakers on Friday approved holding the secession vote in the face of fierce opposition from the central government in Baghdad, the United Nations and the US.
President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani told a rally for secession in the northern city of Dohuk that the Iraqi Kurdistan did “not take legitimacy from anyone.”
The Iraqi parliament voted on September 13 to reject the plebiscite, requiring the prime minister and the central government in Baghdad to “take all steps to protect the unity of Iraq and open a serious dialogue” with Kurdish leaders. The decision prompted a walkout by Kurdish lawmakers.
In June, Abadi described as untimely the decision by Barzani to hold the referendum.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run TRT Haber television news network last month that the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s plans to hold the independence referendum would lead to “civil war” in Iraq.
Iran has also expressed opposition to the “unilateral” scheme, underlining the need to maintain the integrity and stability of Iraq and insisting that the Kurdistan region is part of the majority Arab state.
British minister to press Kurds to drop referendum
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has said he would try to persuade the KRG president to call off the controversial September 25 independence referendum.
“I will be this afternoon in Erbil to tell Massoud Barzani that we do not support the Kurdish referendum,” he said at a press conference in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
“We are committed to the integrity of Iraq. We are working with the UN on alternatives to this referendum,” he added.