By Haydar Hadi
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday that his country “rejects the formation of a racist state in Iraq,” on the eve of a controversial Kurdish independence vote in northern Iraq.
“Iraq is facing ethnic and sectarian division. We reject the formation of a racist state in Iraq,” Abadi said in a televised speech broadcast by state TV.
Iraqi Kurds in provinces controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq are set to head to polls on Monday to vote in a referendum on whether or not to secede from Iraq.
“We will not recognize the referendum results. We will take the necessary steps to protect Iraq’s unity and its citizens’ security,” Abadi added.
The Iraqi premier also accused the KRG government of seizing 900,000 barrels of oil per day.
“Why can’t they pay their civil servants’ salaries?” he asked, adding that the central government in Baghdad never stopped paying or cut salaries despite difficult economic and war conditions.
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is among the contested areas that the vote is planned to take place in.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran, and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
Iraq’s central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
The KRG’s leader, Masoud Barzani, has said a Yes vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.