Crowds filled the streets of the Iraqi Kurdistan capital, rallying ahead of an independence vote this month. While some were waving the flag of Israel, which backs the Kurds’ aspirations, Baghdad says it won’t allow the creation of a “second Israel.”
On Saturday, the city of Erbil saw thousands of protesters turning up at a pro-independence rally, ahead of the scheduled September 25 vote. Colorful Kurdish flags hovered over the crowd as participants danced and cheered at a concert in Shanidar Park, with firecrackers briskly lighting up the sky.
Alongside the Kurdish colors of red, white, yellow, and green, Israeli flags could be seen flying in the crowd.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu buoyed the vote, saying Israel supports the “legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state.”
However, Netanyahu’s remarks didn’t appeal to Baghdad, which opposes the Kurdish resolve to establish an independent state.
“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Vice President Nouri al-Maliki said Sunday, as cited by AFP.
The Kurdistan regional government must “call off the referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” al-Maliki said.
Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also warned of a “dangerous” decision on secession, calling it “playing with fire.”
The PM went as far as to say that Baghdad “will intervene militarily” if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law.”
Washington, too, urged the Kurdish region’s authorities “to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad.”
In the meantime, Moscow pinned its hopes on the will of the Kurdish people being conveyed peacefully, with geopolitical, demographic and economic aspects considered, given that “the Kurdish issue stretches far from Iraqi borders and spans neighboring countries.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said“the legitimate aspirations of the Kurds, as of other people, should be implemented within international law.”
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