Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled on Monday that the Sept. 25 Kurdish independence referendum was unconstitutional and the results void, a court spokesman said.
Kurds voted overwhelmingly to break away from Iraq in the referendum, defying the central government in Baghdad and alarming neighboring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities.
The court is responsible for settling disputes between Iraq’s central government and its regions, including Kurdistan. The verdict cannot be appealed.
“The Federal Court issued the decision to consider the Kurdish region’s referendum unconstitutional and this ruling is final,” the spokesman said. “The power of this ruling should now cancel all the results of the referendum.”
A statement from Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said: “We call upon everybody to … avoid taking any step which violates the constitution and law.”
The court had ruled on Nov. 6 that no region or province can secede. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said last week it would respect that verdict, signaling a new phase in efforts to restart negotiations over the region’s future.
The Iraqi government responded to the Kurdish independence referendum by seizing the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk and other territory disputed between the Kurds and the central government. It also banned direct flights to Kurdistan and demanded control over border crossings.
Long-serving Kurdish president Masoud Barzani stepped down over the affair and the regional government led by his nephew Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has tried to negotiate an end to the confrontation.
In a news conference following Monday’s ruling, Nechirvan Barzani said the court’s ruling was reached unilaterally, without input from KRG representatives, and called for a third party to oversee negotiations between Baghdad and the Kurds.
“The rights of Kurds are enshrined in the [Iraqi] constitution and we seek the implementation of this constitution to resolve our issues with Baghdad,” Barzani told reporters, according to Kurdish Rudaw TV.
“The constitution is one package and must be applied in its entirety, not selectively.”
However, Barzani did not directly say whether Kurdish officials accepted the effective cancellation of the referendum. The KRG had previously offered only to freeze the results.
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