Political Transition in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Political Transition in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the United Nations have appealed for calm.

The move prompted speculation on whether it was Barzani's exit from politics but his senior assistant, Hemin Hawrami, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Barzani "will stay in Kurdish politics and lead the high political council", though as of November 1, he will no longer be president of the region.

The incident came shortly after the assembly voted to transfer presidential authority from KRG President Masoud Barzani to the Kurdish parliament and the KRG's Council of Justice. The autonomous Kurdish Regional Government has faced strong criticism after it held an independence referendum last month. They attacked lawmakers and reporters while a crowd outside parliament waved Kurdish flags.

An Associated Press team witnessed dozens of protesters attacking the building, parliamentarians and journalists as Barzani addressed the Kurdish region in his first televised speech since the referendum's fallout turned violent earlier this month.

Abadi said he was following developments in the Kurdish area closely.

"President Barzani is a historic figure and courageous leader of his people". This decision represents an act of statesmanship during a hard period.

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The referendum in September resulted in 92 percent of Kurds voting for independence from Iraq. "We were a state within a state", said Kamal Chomani, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, in a phone interview Sunday. He told VOA that Barzani's move could ease concerns of the Baghdad government and of Turkey, Iran and other countries opposed to Kurdish independence.

A Kurdish official on the Syrian side of the border said access for aid workers and journalists has not been affected.

He blamed the central government in Baghdad, which had dismissed the Kurdish vote as illegal, accusing it of escalating tensions.

"Three million votes for Kurdistan independence created history and can not be erased", Mr Barzani said, bitterly accusing his political rivals of "treason" for giving up the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk to central government troops in the fighting sparked by the 25 September vote.

Abadi said he would accept only an annulment of the referendum and respect for the country's constitution.

Masoud Barzani has been president of the Kurdish Regional Government since 2005.