Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during an interview with Associated Press on September 16, 2017 (Photo by AP)

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (15:00) – The decision by Kurdish authorities to push through with the referendum on secession from the Republic of Iraq equals “playing with fire”, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The Prime Minister said this during an interview he gave to the Associated Press on Saturday.

“A sincere and brotherly call to the leaders in Kurdistan: the decision of referendum is a dangerous one. I consider it playing with fire. This decision poses the biggest danger to our citizens in Kurdistan,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying.

The interview comes after Friday’s decision by Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) authorities in northern Iraq to continue with the planned plebiscite on September 25, despite fierce opposition from Baghdad and several other nations in the region.

Baghdad has repeatedly stated that the referendum is unconstitutional as long as no agreement has been reached with all affected parties in the country. The Iraqi government has announced to put all legal and constitutional options on the table to respond in case the KRG carries on with its plans.

“If you challenge the constitution and if you challenge the borders of Iraq and the borders of the region, then … this is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well [which] would be a very dangerous escalation,” Abadi warned.

Abadi’s warnings mirror that of other nations in the area, particularly Turkey and Iran, which have pointed out that a break-up of Iraq would significantly weaken the region and leave it vulnerable to foreign aggression. This is likely a reference to statements by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that an independent Kurdistan would be a regional partner and ally to Israel and other western powers.

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Last week, the Council of Representatives of Iraq rejected the Kurdish planned plebiscite as illegal under Iraqi law, and instead called upon both Baghdad and the KRG to “enter into serious dialogue” with one another about a constitutionally legal solution for the Kurdish issue. A similar call was made by the United Nations, which called upon the Kurdish authorities to drop the planned referendum and instead work towards a negotiated deal.

President of the Kurdish Regional Government  Masoud Barzani, however, rejected any such notion of further negotiation, and stated that Iraqi Kurdistan does “not take legitimacy from anyone.”

The conflict over the plebiscite and possible secession of the Kurdish region comes at a vulnerable time for Iraq, as the country is still dealing with the remains of Daesh (ISIS) terrorist activities, particularly in the northwest.

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Historian specialized in Arab history, Islamic studies and geopolitical analysis. Based in Belgium.

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