Elections for president and parliament in Iraq’s Kurdistan will be delayed for eight months after political parties failed to present candidates, the regional parliament said Tuesday.
The vote was previously set to take place November 1, following a September independence referendum in which a vast majority of Kurds voted “yes.”
The Iraqi government strongly opposed the referendum vote and sent troops last week into several Kurdish-held territories to seize back control for the central government.
The ensuing retreat by Kurdish forces led to the decision among Kurdish politicians to postpone the elections.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking Tuesday while on a trip to Iraq, said he is “concerned and a bit saddened by the recent differences” experienced between the Iraqi government and the minority Kurds.
“We have friends both in Baghdad and in Irbil, and we encourage both parties to enter into discussion and dialogue,” he said. “I think if both parties commit themselves to a unified Iraq, to the Iraqi constitution, I think all differences can be addressed, and the rights of all can be respected.”
The United States, along with Iraq’s neighbors Iran and Turkey, all opposed the Kurdish referendum vote.
Amnesty International reported Tuesday at least 11 civilians were killed during fierce clashes between Iraqi government forces and Kurdish militias in Iraq’s multi-ethnic city of Tuz Khurmatu on October 16, as Iraqi forces retook the Kurdish-held land.
According to the Amnesty report, the 11 civilians were killed “by indiscriminate attacks, while hundreds of properties were looted, set on fire and destroyed in what appears to be a targeted attack on predominantly Kurdish areas of the city.”
Tens of thousands of others are displaced and afraid to go back home, the report said.