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Aboul Gheit Calls for Strengthening Federal State to Guarantee Iraq’s Unity | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraq’s Kurdistan region president Massud Barzani (L) receives Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Abul Gheit on September 9, 2017 in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED

Cairo– Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit underlined the need to preserve Iraq’s unity and to hold direct and open dialogue between the different Iraqi components.

Aboul Gheit concluded his visit to Iraq on Saturday evening, after meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and president of Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani.

The Arab League chief called for consolidating the concept of a strong democratic federal state that guarantees the unity of the Iraqi state.

During the 24-hour visit, the secretary general discussed with Iraqi officials the referendum to be held in the Kurdistan region on September 25 and its possible repercussions, both at the national level and in the Arab region as a whole, taking into account major challenges facing the country, especially the threat of terrorism represented by ISIS and foreign interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Aboul Gheit’s spokesman, Mahmoud Afifi, said that both Abadi and Barzani have welcomed the Arab League’s keenness on maintaining talks about the referendum and the future of Iraq, noting that the Arab official underlined the need for all parties to work together to contain the situation, in order to preserve the unity of the Iraqi state and secure the interests of all Iraqi components by safeguarding the principle of citizenship.

Afifi added that the Secretary-General touched upon the weakening trust between Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad. He expressed concern over both sides “despite the joint cooperation that led to great victories over terrorism”.

Aboul Gheit urged the leaders to hold an urgent, direct and open dialogue in order to restore the lost confidence, according to the spokesman.

In response to Aboul Gheit’s request to postpone the vote “for a period of time”, Kurdistan’s Rudaw news agency quoted Barzani as saying that it was not an individual’s decision to delay the referendum.

The Kurdish president said the decision to hold the independence referendum belonged to the people and political parties of Kurdistan.