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Top Iraq court rules Kurdish referendum unconstitutional

Top Iraq court rules Kurdish referendum unconstitutional

Iraq's top court on Monday paved the way for its semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to annul the results of its independence vote that overwhelmingly backed secession from Baghdad's central government.

After long discussions between the federal authority and the Kurdish leadership in the region, an understanding was reached to transfer the case to the Federal Court.

People in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted for independence on September 25 in a controversial referendum, amid rising tensions and global opposition. The verdict is not subject to appeal.

A statement said that the court rendered "a decision declaring unconstitutional the referendum held on September 25, 2017 in Iraqi Kurdistan ... and cancelling all the consequences and results".

Rejecting the freeze offer, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi instead demanded the annulment of the independence vote.

The court had ruled on November 6 that no region or province can secede.

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Last month, the UN Security Council urged the Iraqi government and regional leaders in Kurdistan to set a timetable for talks to end the crisis.

In the weeks after the poll, Iraqi government forces moved into several parts of the country "disputed" between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province.

September's referendum was initiated by then Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, for whom the repercussions were severe.

"Our efforts to launch dialogue and resolve issues peacefully with Baghdad continue", the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, told reporters in Erbil.

However, Barzani did not directly say whether Kurdish officials accepted the effective cancellation of the referendum.

The KRG later said its chief concern was the lifting of an embargo on worldwide flights to the region, which it said hampered foreign investment as well as humanitarian efforts for the more than 1.5 million internally displaced people now in the region. "If Baghdad and the global community want to commit to Iraq's integrity, then the Iraqi constitution must be applied", he said.