Iraqi PM says Kurdish referendum “illegal”, will not support it

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Sunday that a planned independence referendum by Kurdistan Region next September is “illegal”, adding that it complicates the country’s problems.

Speaking to reporters late Saturday, Abadi said Baghdad and the United Nations were not taking part in the referendum which Erbil slated for September 25th.

“The federal government will not partake, support or fund the referendum on the Kurdish region’s independence from Iraq,” said Abadi. “I think the referendum will add more problems to the region, especially that it is not totally agreed upon by the Kurds themselves. It could further complicate the region’s currently strained economy after independence.”

Kurdistan has reiterated the referendum was not binding, but Baghdad regularly argued the move was untimely as the country struggles to drive out Islamic State militants who had taken over large areas of the country since 2014.

Kurdistan gained autonomous governance based on the 2005 constitution, but is still considered a part of Iraq. The region was created in 1970 based on an agreement with the Iraqi government, ending years of fierce fighting.

Both governments in Iraq and Erbil engaged in political spats over regions recaptured by Kurdish Peshmerga (army) troops from the Islamic State militants since campaigns against the group launched in October.

A statement by Abadi’s office late Saturday said that if voters support independence, the result would not affect areas where sovereignty is disputed by both governments, which will need a “special referendum”.