ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi Kurdish authorities said on Tuesday they would accept a court decision prohibiting the region from seceding, signaling a new phase in efforts to restart stalled negotiations over its future.
Iraq’s Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum in September, defying the central government in Baghdad — which had ruled the ballot illegal — as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran which have their own Kurdish minorities.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday it would respect the Nov. 6 ruling by the Supreme Federal Court, which declared that no Iraqi province could secede.
“We believe that this decision must become a basis for starting an inclusive national dialogue between (Kurdish authorities in) Erbil and Baghdad to resolve all disputes,” the KRG said in a statement.
The concession marks the Kurds’ latest attempt to revive negotiations with central government, which imposed retaliatory measures following the independence vote.
They included an offensive by Iraqi government forces and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces last month to wrest back control from the KRG of the oil city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi had previously urged the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region to abide by the court’s decision.
The court is responsible for settling disputes between Iraq’s central government and the country’s regions and provinces. Its decisions cannot be appealed, though it has no mechanism to enforce its ruling in the Kurdish region.
Reporting by Raya Jalabi; editing by John Stonestreet