23:09 GMT28 January 2020
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    Saudi State Minister of the Gulf Affairs Thamer Al-Sabhan has offered help in easing tensions between the officials in Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in Iraq that is planning to hold a referendum on the issue of seceding from the country in September.

    DUBAI (Sputnik) — Saudi Arabia voiced its readiness to act as a mediator between the governments of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan to alleviate the bilateral conflict, which flared up after Erbil announced its decision to hold an independence referendum, the Kurdistan Regional Government said Sunday in a statement released after a meeting of and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani.

    Al-Sabhan expressed "readiness of the country for mediation and assistance in the alleviation of the situation to facilitate dialogue between Kurdistan and Baghdad, to solve the problems between the sides," the statement read.

    According to the statement, the Saudi minister also spoke in praise of the part that the Kurds and their militia dubbed Peshmerga play in the fight against terrorism.

    On Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said that Baghdad was ready to launch a military operation in Kurdistan if the independence plebiscite sparks up an outbreak of violence.

    In June, Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan, set September 25 as the date for an independence referendum. The announced referendum has been widely criticized by a number of countries, including Russia, Turkey, Iran and the United States. While Moscow voiced support for Iraq's unity and territorial integrity, Washington reportedly asked Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani to postpone holding the region's independence referendum. Earlier this week, the Iraqi parliament voted against the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum.

    Kurdistan’s authorities have repeatedly raised the issue of independence since 2005 when the Iraqi Constitution recognized the region as an autonomous entity.


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