Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Abul Gheit to Visit Erbil, Convey Calls to Postpone Independence Referendum | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit speaks during a protest held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Files

Cairo– Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit plans to visit Erbil soon to discuss the referendum to be held in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq on September 25, sources with knowledge of the matter told Asharq al-Awsat.

The Arab diplomatic sources said that the move by Aboul Gheit falls within the framework of what he sees as “a necessary priority that requires every effort and opportunity to encourage and promote dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil.”

They added that the expected meeting between the Arab League chief and the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan Masoud Barzani would witness “an honest discussion about the referendum,” based on Aboul Gheit’s belief of the “importance that the Kurdish leadership assesses the situation and reads it carefully before taking the step of the referendum, considering the negative impact on the unity of the Iraqi state and on the future of the Kurds in Iraq and neighboring countries.”

The Arab League secretary general had exchanged with the Kurdish leader diplomatic messages over the last period.

In a letter to Barzani, Aboul Gheit conveyed the Arab League’s position, which supports the postponement of the planned referendum, calling for dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil and adherence to the Constitution and the federal system approved by all components of the Iraqi political system.

Barzani responded by reiterating the position of the different Kurdish parties and highlighting the “bitterness” felt by the Iraqi Kurds towards the central government in Baghdad.

The sources added that the Arab League chief was convinced that the door of dialogue with the Kurds, “who represent an important dimension in the formation of the Arab world”, should not be closed and that all efforts should be deployed to preserve their presence as an authentic component of Arab society, whether in Iraq or Syria, especially that the situation in the region does not tolerate more divisions.