Iraq rejects talks with Kurdistan unless referendum results cancelled



The Iraqi government on Monday said it will not hold talks with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) until the latter cancels the results of the controversial independence referendum.

"There is a need for the (Kurdish) region to cancel the results of the referendum which is contrary to the constitution, and then to engage in serious dialogue (with Baghdad) to strengthen the unity of Iraq," the government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said in a statement.

The central government also said that the KRG "must confirm its commitment with the Iraqi constitution and the decisions of the federal government," according to the statement.

Hadithi also said that the region "must stop the escalation and provocation in areas outside the region (disputed areas, including Kirkuk province)."

Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years, as the ethnic Kurds consider the northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh, Diyala and Salahudin provinces as disputed areas and want them to be incorporated into their region, a move fiercely opposed by the Arabs and Turkomans and by Baghdad government.

On Sept. 18, the Iraqi Supreme Court issued a verdict to stop the independence referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, which was held later on Sept. 25.

Earlier, the KRG President Masoud Barzani welcomed an initiative launched by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi aiming at ending the crisis between the central government and the regional government by holding dialogue between the two sides without preconditions.

The Kurdish leadership also welcomed the call for dialogue presented by most revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to resolve the crisis, which was exacerbated after the Kurdish region held the referendum on Sept. 25.

In the weekly Friday prayer, the representative of Sistani called for dialogue and that the two sides of the crisis must adhere to the constitution and renounce violence and threat.

Tensions have been running high between Baghdad government and the Kurdish region after the region held a controversial referendum on independence of Kurdistan and disputed areas, including Kirkuk.

The independence referendum was opposed by many countries because it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and it could undermine fight against Islamic State militants.

In addition, neighboring countries such as Turkey, Iran and Syria see that such a step would threaten their territorial integrity, as larger populations of Kurds live in those countries.