US urges Iraqi Kurdish leader to call off statehood referendum
The White House has said the plan for an independence referendum in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region later this month distracts from efforts to defeat Isil. It urged Kurdish leaders to call off the vote.
"We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate," the White House said in a statement.
The parliament of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region convened for the first time in two years yesterday to vote on a plan to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.
The central government in Baghdad opposes the plan, which was announced earlier this year by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Turkey, have also expressed their opposition to the plan, as they fear an independent Kurdish state could fuel separatism among their own Kurdish populations.
The parliament met in the KRG capital, Erbil, in northern Iraq.
Mr Barzani was adamant that the vote would not be delayed.
"We still haven't heard a proposal that can be an alternative to the Kurdistan referendum," he said.
Gorran, the main opposition movement to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), boycotted the parliament session in Erbil.
It was a dispute between Gorran and the KDP that caused the assembly to suspend its sessions in 2015.
Barzani's decision not to postpone the referendum was "very wrong", Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday.