Iraqi sanctions will not punish Kurdish people, says Al-Abadi

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi

:: Amid fears in Iraqi Kurdistan that economic and financial sanctions imposed by Baghdad will hurt them soon, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Monday his government would not target or punish the Kurdish people.

Al-Abadi demanded that Kurdish leaders annul their independence referendum, commit fully to Iraq’s constitutional unity and cease provocations in areas they have “illegally seized.”

These are the conditions for talks with Irbil after last month’s controversial referendum in which more than 90 percent of voters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq supported independent statehood, the prime minister’s spokesman said.

“They must deal with Baghdad as the federal authority that has federal power inside the region,” Ehssan Al-Shimiri, an adviser to the prime minister, told Arab News.

“Imposing the international flight ban was a message that federal authority applies in the region, and that the government has a right to take further measures against the Kurdish leaders.”

Baghdad says the referendum was illegal and unconstitutional, and imposed a ban on international flights to and from Irbil and Sulaymaniyah airports. Kurdish leaders insist the result of the referendum must be the basis for talks with the government.

Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barazani and other Kurdish leaders arrived in Kirkuk on Monday to meet commanders of their peshmerga militia. The commanders included Kamal Kirkuki, Mustafa Chao Rish, Sierwan Barazani and Jaafar Shiekh Mustafa.

Kirkuk is an oil hub with a majority Kurdish population, but is not officially part of the Kurdistan Region, but Barzani said: “The identity of Kirkuk is Kurdish and the referendum was a tool to legitimize the decision of the people.”

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