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US urges Kurds to call off independence vote

US urges Kurds to call off independence vote
From Al Jazeera - September 16, 2017

The United States has sternly urged the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistanto call off its independence referendum, saying the timing for the vote is not right.

Iraqi Kurdish legislators on Friday approved the September 25 vote that was set in motion by regional president Massud Barzani, a Washington ally who has publicly kept open the option of postponing it.

Washington has long supported Kurdish autonomy and has relied on the region's forces in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, but it fears that now is not the time for the people to seize their freedom.

US officials fear the vote, while not legally binding, will hurt Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's re-election chances; complicate ties with Turkey; and disrupt the war against ISIL (also known as ISIS).

READ MORE - Kurdish leader: No turning back on independence bid

"The United States has repeatedly emphasised to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilise the liberated areas," President Donald Trump's White House said in a statement.

"Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilising," it warned.

While Baghdad recognises Kurdistan's autonomy, the precise boundary between the region and the rest of Iraq is unclear.

The US also wants the Kurds to enter into a "serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad" which Washington "has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate", the statement said.

This week, top US envoy Brett McGurk was again in Erbil and attempted to persuade the Kurdish leader to call off the highly-charged popular vote in exchange for a new diplomatic initiative.

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