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US Commends Kurdish Leader Barzani for Stepping Down

  • VOA News

Iraqi Kurdish students of the Salahaddin University hold posters of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani during a rally in his support in Irbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, Oct. 30, 2017.

The United States is commending Masoud Barzani's decision to step down from his position as president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

"President Barzani is a historic figure and courageous leader of his people, most recently in our common fight to destroy ISIS.” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Monday. “This decision represents an act of statesmanship during a difficult period."

The statement called on Iraq and Kurdish Regional Government to "work urgently to resolve pending issues under the Iraq constitution".

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for calm and respect for the law in the northern Kurdistan region, a day after Barzani announced he was stepping down.

He said the central government in Baghdad wants to establish safe conditions in every province and protect the interests of every citizen.

Abadi said he is closely following the developments in the Kurdistan region and the attacks on the headquarters of the parties "as well as the media and attempts to cause chaos and disturbances in Irbil and Dahu.

Sunday, Barzani asked lawmakers to dissolve the position of the president and distribute its duties among the Kurdish prime minister, parliament and the judiciary.

Dozens of Barzani's supporters broke into the building and attacked lawmakers and journalists, while a crowd outside waved Kurdish flags in support of him.

Iraqi Kurds wave fabric strips in the colors of the Kurdish flag during a rally in support of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, Oct. 30, 2017.
Iraqi Kurds wave fabric strips in the colors of the Kurdish flag during a rally in support of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, Oct. 30, 2017.

Barzani said Abadi's government used a September Kurdish independence referendum as "an excuse" to retake much of the territory the Kurds had controlled for years after peshmerga and coalition forces ousted the Islamic State militants who captured vast swaths of northern Iraq in 2014. The referendum resulted in more than 92 percent of Iraqi Kurds choosing independence.

Abadi called the independence referendum illegal.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority had been clashing for several weeks in mostly low-level firefights until Friday, when they agreed to a cease-fire, and Kurdish forces abandoned the land they held, largely without resistance.

Kurdish leaders offered to freeze the referendum results and start dialogue with the central government in Baghdad, but Abadi rejected that offer.

Abadi said he would accept only an annulment of the referendum and respect for the country's constitution.

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