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Iraq: Kurds must reject referendum before talks

Reuters BAGHDAD (Reuters) — The Iraqi government said on Thursday it would not hold talks with the Kurdish autonomous region on reopening its airports and providing dollars for its banks, unless the Kurds commit to “Iraq’s unity.”

Iraq’s central government imposed a ban on direct international flights to the autonomous Kurdish region after the Kurds held a Sept. 25 referendum on independence, which Baghdad says was illegal. It is calling for its neighbors to shut the landlocked region’s borders.

Among other measures to isolate the Kurdish region, Baghdad stopped selling dollars to four Kurdish-owned banks and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.

The Kurds have repeatedly called for negotiations following the referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted for independence.

“To avoid this collective punishment, we invite [Iraqi Prime Minister] Haider al-Abadi, again, ... [to] any form of dialogue and negotiations in conformity with the Iraqi Constitution,” the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said in a statement.

It offered discussions “regarding the crossings, internal trade, providing services to the citizens, the banks and the airports.”

But Baghdad has said the Kurds must disavow the referendum result as a pre-condition for any talks. Asked about the latest offer, an Iraqi government spokesman said there could be no talks until the Kurds gave a “commitment to Iraq’s unity.”

The KRG “must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on oil exports, security and border protection, including land and air entry points,” he told Reuters.

The Kurds, who have sought an independent state for generations, say their referendum was meant to be the start of a negotiation that would see them gain independence after agreement with the Iraqi government.

But Baghdad considered the vote illegal, especially as it was held not only in territory that forms part of the Kurdish autonomous region, but also in disputed neighboring parts of Iraq occupied by Kurdish troops.Speech

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