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Kurdish delegation heads to Baghdad for talks ahead of vote: Zebari

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hoshyar Zebari, a senior Kurdish official and former foreign minister of Iraq

A delegation from Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region has headed to the capital, Baghdad, for dialog with the central government ahead of a planned secession plebiscite slated for Monday, a senior Kurdish official says.

“The delegation will discuss the referendum but the referendum is still happening,” Hoshiyar Zebari, a top adviser to leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani, told Reuters.

“We said we would talk to Baghdad before, during and after the referendum,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Barzani said the planned referendum will be held next week despite international warnings.

"The referendum is no longer in my hands, nor is it in those of the (political) parties, it is in your hands," he told a crowd of thousands in the regional capital of Erbil on Friday.

President of Iraq's Kurdish region Massoud Barzani speaks during a press conference in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, January 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The controversial referendum on independence from the mainland is to take place on September 25.

Baghdad has condemned the plebiscite as unconstitutional, repeatedly calling on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to suspend the vote, which is planned to be held in three provinces that make up their region, as well as in disputed areas that are controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province.

"We say that we are ready for serious open-minded dialogue with Baghdad, but after September 25, because now it is too late," Barzani said.

He said the fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in partnership with the Iraqi military would "continue" despite the referendum.

The remarks come a day after the UN Security Council warned that the referendum was potentially “destabilizing” and threatened the ongoing war against Daesh.

Turkey says referendum 'illegitimate'

Meanwhile, Turkey's National Security Council (MGK) condemned the referendum as "illegitimate" and "unacceptable."

"The illegitimate and unacceptable nature of the referendum ... has been specified once again," the MGK said in a statement on Friday after a meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It also warned that Turkey was ready to use its "rights" in accordance with international agreements.

The United Nations and the United States as well as regional powers such as Iran and Turkey have expressed concern about the vote, arguing that it could create further instability in the already volatile region.

The Israeli regime, however, has come out in apparent support of the controversial referendum.


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