Iraqi Kurdistan President To Step Down After Independence Referendum Backfires

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani is set to step down, following an independence referendum that backfired and damaged Kurdish hopes for autonomy.

Barzani is preparing to leave his post after Nov. 1, which was already the date set for the end of his term, but not many observers believed he would follow through on stepping down, Reuters reports.

A letter from Barzani read in Kurdish parliament Sunday states that he will not continue as president after Nov. 1. As part of his refusal to continue, Barzani urged the parliament to come up with a replacement to avoid the creation of a “legal vacuum.”

“I refuse to continue the position of president of the Region after November 1, 2017, and the presidential law of the Region should not be amended, nor should the term of the Regional Presidency be extended,” Barzani wrote. “You should therefore meet at your earliest convenience to ensure there is no legal vacuum in the execution of the duties and powers of the president of the Region and resolve this subject.”

“Moreover, I, as Masoud Barzani the Peshmerga, will continue with our nation and beloved Peshmerga in endeavors to achieve the just rights of our nation and protect the achievements of our nation,” Barzani added.

The moves comes after a recent independence referendum held in Kurdistan. Although it was successful in the sense of securing sufficient votes, it backfired spectacularly and resulted in Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias seizing the Kurdish-administered city of Kirkuk. The move for autonomy also provoked serious enmity from Turkey and Iran.

The U.S. has elected not to militarily intervene, instead encouraging both sides to focus on the fight against the Islamic State. However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a brief suspension in the military conflict against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq on Friday. As of Sunday, Iraqi forces and Peshmerga fighters are beginning a second round of talks to settle a dispute over border control crossings, according to Iraqi state TV. For Abadi, the point of the talks is to deploy Iraqi troops on the Kurdistan region’s border crossings to Turkey, Iran and Syria.

Earlier on Thursday, Abadi urged the Kurds to declare the independence referendum void.

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