Sunday 24 June 2018

Iraqi premier calls for calm in Kurdish region after rioting

Haider al-Abadi said the central government is closely monitoring events in Irbil and Dahuk (AP)
Haider al-Abadi said the central government is closely monitoring events in Irbil and Dahuk (AP)

Iraq's prime minister has called for calm in the self-ruled northern Kurdish region after rioting the previous night following the Kurdish regional president's decision to effectively step down.

Prime minister Haider al-Abadi said the central government is closely monitoring what he described as "attempts to create chaos and disorder" in Irbil and Dahuk, two cities in the Kurdish region.

On Sunday, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani told the regional parliament in a letter read to legislators that he would not seek re-election after last month's controversial Kurdish independence referendum sparked a crisis with Baghdad and neighbouring countries.

As the Kurdish regional parliament was discussing Mr Barzani's request to have his powers dissolved, dozens of his supporters rioted outside, apparently angry over the developments and trying to express their support for him.

The protesters broke into the assembly and attacked legislators and journalists until the police subdued them. They also attacked an office of a rival political party and an opposition TV station.

The September referendum has left the Iraqi Kurdish region increasingly isolated. Within weeks, a backlash from the vote revealed Mr Barzani had miscalculated. Kurdish forces lost nearly half of the territory they had controlled during the war against the Islamic State group.

The region's air space was closed to international commercial flights, Turkey threatened the use of military force and Tehran and Ankara threatened to close border crossings vital to the land-locked region.

Mr Barzani addressed the Kurdish region in a televised speech on Sunday, his first appearance since the crisis erupted.

He blamed the central government in Baghdad, which had dismissed the Kurdish vote as illegal, accusing it of escalating tensions.

He also condemned rival Kurdish political parties and said they were guilty of "treason", referring to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan which had allegedly struck a deal with Baghdad to withdraw Kurdish forces from the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, retaken by Iraqi forces earlier this month.

Mr Barzani's request, which was approved by the regional parliament late on Sunday, was to distribute his presidential powers among the Kurdish prime minister, the Kurdish parliament and the judiciary.

The move prompted speculation on whether it was his exit from politics but his senior assistant, Hemin Hawrami, said he "will stay in Kurdish politics and lead the high political council", although from November 1, he will no longer be president of the region.

Kurdish presidential elections that were due in November have been postponed indefinitely.

"We call for adhering to the law and for calm," Mr al-Abadi said from Baghdad, adding that "political differences" in the Kurdish region should not negatively impact the Kurdish citizens of Iraq.

AP

Press Association

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