Iraqi Kurdistan Leader Calls for Dialogue Amid Threats from Baghdad

Kurdistan, Iraq, referendum, independence, Turkey, instability, independence referendum, Falah Mustafa, Kurdistan referendum
Students display Kurdistan flags at a pro-independence rally in front of University of Cihan in Erbil, Kurdistan's regional capital.

The leader of Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday called for dialogue after an independence referendum that officials say received more than 90 percent approval.

In a speech, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani said “There’s no need to relay threats, it’s your fault we choose independence, your failure brought us here.”

“I ask Prime Minister Abadi and anyone who believes in peace and dialogue to start serious negotiations,” he added.

The KRG held the vote on Monday despite pressure from its neighbors and the United States to postpone the referendum and re-enter negations with Baghdad.

More than 92 percent of voters in the Kurdistan Region said yes to the question of independence, according to Rudaw news agency. The electoral commission said turnout was 72 percent.

Mr. Barzani called for a start to negotiations with Baghdad, saying Iraq was at fault for the breakdown in relations. Officials have said the Kurdistan referendum does not automatically mean the region will declare independence.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi earlier rejected the referendum as unconstitutional, reiterated that Baghdad would not negotiate with the Kurds, and said the government would hold “accountable” the people responsible for carrying out the vote.

Mr. Abadi moved to take control of the borders, giving the KRG 72 hours to hand over control of all border crossings and airports to avoid an air embargo.

He later tweeted his statement in English during Mr. Barzani’s address.

Turkey has already threatened to impose sanctions on the region if it declares independence from Baghdad, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the Kurds will go hungry if Ankara cuts off an important oil pipeline.

“It will be over when we close the oil taps, all revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq,” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech carried on Turkish television.

Kurdistan Referendum Finds Little Support Amid Warnings of Regional Instability