Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called for “calm” and “adherence to law” in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region following an outbreak of riot there after Massoud Barzani, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s president, announced that he would effectively step down early next month.
The Iraqi premier made the request in a statement on Monday, warning that the Kurdish people would suffer the most from unrest in the region. He also said that “political differences” in the region would also affect the Kurds the most.
Abadi further stressed that “the federal government in Baghdad is keen to stabilize the situation in all provinces of Iraq, work for the citizens and protect their interests.”
The Iraqi prime minister also said that his government was closely monitoring what he described as “attempts to create chaos and disorder” in two cities of the Kurdish region, namely Erbil, the KRG’s capital, and Dahuk.
Abadi’s remarks came a day after Barzani told the Kurdish regional parliament that he would step down as president of the KRG as early November 1 and that he would not seek a re-election after the September 25’s highly controversial Kurdish independence referendum, whose architect was Barzani himself, sparked a crisis with Baghdad and neighboring countries.
A few hours after Barzani’s announcement, Kurdish lawmakers approved the 71-year-old Kurdish leader’s request to resign, prompting dozens of people, who called themselves Peshmerga Kurdish fighters, to storm the assembly on Sunday evening and began attacking the legislators and journalists until the police subdued them.
The crestfallen Barzani, whose critics blamed him for an injudicious decision to call the non-binding plebiscite at a time when the Iraqi government was busy fighting Daesh Takfiri terrorists, delivered a televised speech shortly after Parliament approved his request, lambasting the US for not supporting Kurds in their quest for independence.
“Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains,” Barzani said bitterly in his speech, standing in front of Kurdish and Iraqi flags. “Why would Washington want to punish Kurdistan?” he said.
The Iraqi government, which strongly slammed the vote as unconstitutional, responded to the referendum by taking a number of punitive measures, including a campaign to seize back positions held by Kurdish forces since 2014, when they joined the fight against Daesh terrorists.
On October 16, the first day of the Iraqi military operations, federal forces retook control of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk.
Barzani has been the president of the KRG since 2005. However, he has been under fire by his critics, as his tenure officially expired in August 2015.