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Riyadh urges Kurds to scrap vote

Barzani should drop plans in order to avoid new crises in the region, official says

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia Wednesday urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to call off planned referendum on independence for his autonomous region to avoid further “crises” in Iraq and the region.

A Saudi government official said Barzani should drop plans to hold a referendum “in light of the situation in the region and the dangers it is facing, and in order to avoid new crises”.

He called on the Kurdish leader to make use of his “wisdom and experience”, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said. Holding the referendum as planned on September 25 could have “negative consequences on the political, security and humanitarian fronts”.

It could also “affect efforts to establish security and stability in the region, as well as efforts to fight against terrorist organisations and their activities,” the official added. 

Barzani has so far resisted pressure from Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbours Turkey and Iran, as well as from the United States and its Western allies, to call off the vote.

The Saudi official called on “all concerned parties to engage in a dialogue that would serve the interests of the entire Iraqi people”. 

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to impose sanctions over the vote, piling economic pressure on Kurds after Turkish troops deployed near the main commercial border crossing.