A Kirkuk Referendum May Take Place, Iraqi Ambassador Says

A dispute over control of Kirkuk and Iraq’s fourth-largest oilfield between the central government in Baghdad and Kurdish regional officials should be resolved with a local vote, according to the country’s ambassador to the U.K.

“A referendum should take place in these areas to decide if they would like to be under the authority of Baghdad and that should solve the dispute,” Faik Nerweyi said at the embassy in London. “That’s how it should have been solved in 2007. But the Iraqi government in Baghdad until now has not solved that.”

The city of Kirkuk is the subject of a longstanding dispute between the Kurds and the central government, with each citing historical and ethnic ties as reason for claiming control of the area. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took full control of the city in the middle of June, saying they were defending it from Islamic State militants after the Iraqi army retreated. The Kirkuk oilfield contains almost 9 billion barrels of oil.

“Huge preparations” by the militants to attack Kirkuk led to some confrontations last night but the Peshmerga held onto their positions, Nerweyi told journalists at the embassy.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is keeping soldiers near Kirkuk until people there can vote in its planned referendum for full independence, Safeen Dizayee, a spokesman, said on June 30. The central government has said any such referendum by the Kurds would be unlawful. Iraq holds the world’s fifth-largest crude reserves of 150 billion barrels excluding the Kurdish region.

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