Kurdistan region offers to freeze independence vote, engage in talks with Baghdad

Iraqi Kurds wave flags of Iraqi Kurdistan and shout slogans during a demonstration outside the UN Office in Arbil on Oct 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO/BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) offered on Wednesday (Oct 25) to put an independence referendum on hold as part of efforts to end the military confrontation with Iraqi forces, and resolve the crisis with the central government in Baghdad through dialogue.

"The fighting between the two sides will not produce a victory for any, it will take the country to total destruction,"said the KRG in a statement.

"We make the following proposal to the government and Iraqi and international public opinion: 1- immediate ceasefire (..) 2- freezing the results of the referendum (..) 3- starting an open dialogue with the federal government based on the Iraqi Constitution," it said.

The Iraqi government has transformed the balance of power in the north of the country since launching a campaign last week to seize back territory from the Kurds, who govern an autonomous region of three northern provinces and had also seized a swathe of other territory in northern Iraq.

The Kurds held a referendum on independence on Sept 25 that Baghdad called illegal. Baghdad responded by seizing back the city of Kirkuk, the oil-producing areas around it and other territory that the Kurds had captured from Islamic State.

Prime Minister Haidar Abadi has ordered his army to recapture all disputed territory and has also demanded central control of Iraq's border crossings with Turkey, all of which are inside the Kurdish autonomous region itself.

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