File photo shows the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi greeted by Iraqi commanders and security forces in Mosul on July 9, 2017, a day before he declared victory over ISIS in the city. Photo: Iraqi PM media office
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that he will not “deploy tanks” to the Kurdistan Region in response to the Region’s planned referendum this fall, despite the vote being “unconstitutional, illegitimate.” Iraq will not recognize the results, he said.
Asked about the referendum in his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Abadi said that all Iraqis, including Kurds, live “in one country that has a constitution” and the constitution does not have a section that allows for one party to unilaterally hold a referendum to separate from the rest of the country.
“That is why the way we deal with the referendum is that it is unconstitutional, illegitimate, and we will not deal with it,” Abadi said.
He added that while he respects Kurdistan’s aspirations, one party on its own can not decide on the future of the country.
He ruled out military confrontation. “I mean, what I will do? Will I deploy tanks, for example? I will not do that,” Abadi said.
He warned Kurdistan’s leadership about going forward with the referendum on September 25, which he said will have “bad” consequences for both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Instead, he called for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve their many outstanding issues.
Abadi also questioned the authority of the Kurdistan Region in conducting the referendum.
He questioned whether all Kurdish parties are behind the vote and he pointed out the issue of the suspended parliament, internal political disputes, and the sacking of several ministries of the Regional government.
Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani said earlier this month that they will not seek authorization from Baghdad.
“Regarding the credibility of this decision, if you want the Baghdad parliament to make this decision, it is a fact that they will never make this decision. And we don’t need the Baghdad parliament to make this decision, either,” Barzani said when asked whether or not Erbil would seek a go ahead from the Iraqi parliament.
He accused the Iraqi leadership of having "the same culture" of genocide as practiced by past Iraqi governments.
Iraq’s Defense Minister Erfan Al-Hayali told Rudaw on Monday that the Iraqi army is staying out of the referendum dispute between Erbil and Baghdad, describing it as a “political issue” the armed forces will never interfere with.