Iraq’s Diyala opts out of looming Kurd region poll

 13 Sep 2017 - 10:04

Iraq’s Diyala opts out of looming Kurd region poll

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DIYALA, Iraq: Local officials in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province on Tuesday announced their decision not to take part in an upcoming referendum on Kurdish regional independence.

At a press conference, Ali Dayini, head of Diyala’s provincial assembly, announced that the council had voted not to include the province in the upcoming poll, which is slated to be held later this month.

According to Dayini, the province currently faces more pressing issues, including the repatriation of residents displaced by the ongoing fight against the IS terrorist group.

Scheduled for Sept. 25, the non-binding referendum will see residents of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from Baghdad. 

Earlier this month, Turkmen and Arab residents of Diyala’s Medeli district expressed their opposition to the planned referendum by tearing down Kurdish regional flags in the area and raising Iraqi flags in their place.

In a related development Tuesday, Iraqi lawmakers voted against the upcoming poll, calling on Baghdad to resolve its longstanding differences with Erbil (the Kurdish Regional Government’s administrative capital) through dialogue. 

The Iraqi government fears the poll will adversely affect the ongoing fight against IS -- which still maintains a significant presence in northern Iraq -- and violate the country’s 2005 constitution.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, saying the region’s stability depends on Iraq’s unity and the maintenance of its territorial integrity. 

Washington has likewise voiced concern that the poll could serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and the stabilization of post-IS Iraq.