Kurdish President Barzani To Step Down Amid Fallout From Independence Vote

Peshmerga defeat Iranian-backed Shia PMF militia attack near Rabia northern Iraq

Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, told a closed-door session of parliament Sunday he was stepping down amid the fallout from a controversial independence referendum.

Officials from Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had already told journalists that the letter to be read out would announce he was stepping aside.

Barzani's current term was set to expire in four days, the same date that presidential and parliamentary elections were due to be held.

After decades of struggle, critics say Mr Barzani made one of his biggest mistakes by pushing hard for a September 25 referendum. The independence vote was deemed illegal by the central authorities.

Mr Barzani said he would remain a Peshmerga, or Kurdish fighter, and would "continue to defend the achievements of the people of Kurdistan".

In a televised address, his first since Iraqi forces launched a surprise offensive to recapture Kurdish-held territory on October 16, Barzani confirmed that he would not extend his presidential term after November 1 "under any conditions".

In just a few hours, the city the Kurds regard as sacred was gone, along with other Kurdish-held territory across the north.

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A man sits outside a store selling photos of Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and members of his family, in central Irbil, Iraq, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. "We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front (Shi'ite militias) kept advancing, using USA weapons", he said.

Barzani went on to win another presidential election in 2009, and his term was extended in 2013.

"Nobody stood up with us other than our mountains", he said, speaking with Kurdish and Iraqi flags behind him.

Forces from Iraq's conventional military moved through Kurdish territory to launch the operation to retake Mosul from Daesh, a level of cooperation hailed by US-led coalition leaders as unprecedented.

Abadi said the talks are meant to prepare for the peaceful deployment of Iraqi troops at the border crossings with Turkey, Iran and Syria in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

The fall of Kirkuk - a multi-ethnic city which lies outside the KRG's official boundaries - to Iraqi forces on October 16 was a major symbolic and financial blow to the Kurds' independence drive because it halved the region's oil export revenue.

While Iraq's Kurdish region participated in the drafting of the country's constitution after the overthrow of Saddam, relations between Baghdad and Irbil swiftly deteriorated in early 2014 under then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki.

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