10/25/2017, 09.38
IRAQ
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Erbil offers to 'freeze' the results of the independence referendum

Kurdish authorities propose a ceasefire to "prevent further violence and clashes” and  "open dialogue" between the two sides. The Kurdish Parliament postpones the legislative and presidential elections of November 1st. UN offers mediation to "overcome the crisis".

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Kurdistan regional government has "proposed freezing" the results of the recent vote on independence, which triggered a violent response from central authorities, and wants to start a dialogue with Baghdad to resolve the crisis. The Erbil authorities have proposed a ceasefire in order to "prevent further violence and clashes" to the detriment of the local civilian population.

Last week, heavy clashes between Iraqi army and Kurdish militia (Peshmerga) broke out in the context of a rapid advance of governmental militaries in territories - including Kirkuk – long  controlled by the Kurds. Violence followed the independence referendum in the Northern Autonomous Region, which was held on 25 September and ended with an overwhelming victory (over 90%) for the yes vote.

The vote was also held in the controversial territory of Kirkuk. Baghdad said the referendum - which faced international opposition, except for Israel - was illegal. The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako intervened  in a letter renewed the call for dialogue between the parties against the danger of "new conflicts”.

In an official statement released overnight, the Kurdistan regional government proposes “to [Baghdad] and Iraqi public opinion [...] to freeze the results of the referendum [...] and the beginning of an open dialogue between the government of Kurdistan and the central government on the basis of the Constitution. "

In the note, Erbil emphasizes that continuous fighting does not benefit any of the fronts, but drags the country "towards disorder and chaos." Hence the three-point proposal for a ceasefire and the end of military operations to ward off further casualties after the 30 deaths recorded in recent days.

Lastly, the Kurdistan Parliament has decided to postpone the legislative and presidential elections in the autonomous region, scheduled for early November. The decision reflects the post-referendum crisis and the recent territorial losses. The legislative elections are being postponed for at least eight months, while there are no indications on the date of the presidential elections.

The freezing of presidential activities and the failure to renew the mandate of leader Masoud Barzani confirm the Parliament's intention to put an end to current leadership. Moreover, the president was one of the major promoters of the referendum, which then triggered the current state of crisis.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, which until the eve of 25 September invoked an alternative negotiating plan, has re-launched the mediation proposal in talks between Baghdad and Erbil to stop an escalation. In a note, UN Special Representative to UN Secretary-General Jan Kubis says he is "confident that, in spite of recent tensions, Iraq will overcome the crisis." Finally, he offers "the good wishes" of the United Nations mission "to facilitate the discussions, if both sides seek it."

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