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  • Girl waves Kurdish flag as they gather to support next week's referendum in Iraq, at Martyrs Square in Downtown Beirut, Lebanon (AAP)
The Australian government has joined the growing number of international voices calling for the postponement of the Kurdish independence referendum, currently due to take place in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on the 25th September.
Kurdish
By
Roza Germian

18 Sep 2017 - 4:11 PM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2017 - 11:40 PM

In a statement provided to SBS Kurdish by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian Government’s stance echoes that of the United State’s position and its allies. 

"The Government has real concerns about the Kurdistan Regional Government holding an independence referendum at this time," a spokesperson for DFAT says in the statement.  

The three autonomous regions which are controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) but still claimed by Iraq, are set to vote in a referendum in support of Kurdish independence on the 25th September. 

Kurds outside this region and around the world will also have the opportunity to vote online from 23rd to 25th of Sept, if they registered online between first to 20th of September. 

Australia cites the current conflict with IS and resulting humanitarian issues as a major causes of instability in the region, which raises concerns about the timing of the referendum. 

"Holding a referendum at this time risks causing further instability in Iraq that would weaken both the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government," the statement reads.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also now joined a number of leadership voices around the world calling on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to scrap next week's Independence Referendum. 

Guterres said "any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat ISIL."

While Australia's new statement discourages the referendum from taking place at this particular time, it still gives a nod to independence by acknowledges the Kurds' "long-standing aspirations for autonomy and their difficult history." 

This is a slightly different stance to that taken in a previous statement given to SBS Kurdish in 2016 in which the Australian government placed an emphasis on the "unity, sovereignty, and the integrity of the states of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey."

It says that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should focus on working with Iraq’s central government to defeat IS.

"Holding a referendum at this time risks causing further instability in Iraq that would weaken both the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government."

The prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi has repeatedly called for Kurdish authorities to cancel the referendum, saying they were "playing with fire" and inviting other countries to violate Iraqi borders.

“If they are threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily,” al-Abadi  told the AP this week.

Australia meanwhile urges Erbil (the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq) and Baghdad to work together on the "humanitarian and stabilisation needs arising from the conflict."

Australia also reinforces the Iraqi government's need to take “concrete steps” for reconciliation and inclusive governance through greater decentralisation.

Full statement below:

“The Australian Government supports genuine political representation and non-discriminatory policies for Iraqi Kurds, and acknowledges their long-standing aspirations for autonomy and their difficult history.

However, the Government has real concerns about the Kurdistan Regional Government holding an independence referendum at this time.  ISIL remains a serious threat to Iraq.  It is critical Erbil and Baghdad continue to work together to defeat the terrorists and address the urgent humanitarian and stabilisation needs arising from the conflict.  Difficult issues between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi central government in Baghdad remain unresolved and political divisions persist within the Kurdistan Regional Government.  We note there is near-unanimous international opposition to a referendum taking place at this time.

Holding a referendum at this time risks causing further instability in Iraq that would weaken both the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.  To be sustainable, any changes to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s status would need to be negotiated and agreed with the Iraqi central government, and we encourage ongoing engagement between Erbil and Baghdad.”

The Australian Government has consistently reinforced the importance of the Iraqi Government taking concrete steps to progress reconciliation and inclusive governance in Iraq, including through greater decentralisation."

DFAT Statement on Kurdistan's Independence received in 2016 by SBS Kurdish: