Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

In this file photo, Kurds celebrate to show their support for the September 25th independence referendum in Irbil, Iraq on September 22, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s supreme court on Monday declared that September’s referendum on independence in the autonomous Kurdish areas in the north of the country was unconstitutional.
A statement said the court “rendered a decision declaring unconstitutional the referendum held on September 25, 2017 in Iraqi Kurdistan ... and canceling all the consequences and results that resulted.”
Monday’s legal move was the latest stage in a crisis sparked by the referendum, which resulted in a resounding “yes” vote for independence in the Kurdish area.
Last month, the UN Security Council urged the Iraqi government and regional leaders in Kurdistan to set a timetable for talks to end the crisis.
The world body’s appeal came after Baghdad dismissed an offer from Iraqi Kurdish leaders to freeze the outcome of the referendum and hold talks.
Rejecting the freeze offer, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi instead demanded the annulment of the independence vote.
Last week, as the deadline announced by the Supreme Court for its decision on the constitutionality of the referendum approached, the Kurdistan government said it “respected” the decisions taken by Iraq’s highest court.
It also said it respected a previous decision insisting on Iraqi unity, which could be a basis for dialogue.
Parliament in Baghdad is currently reviewing the federal budget for the coming year, including the allocation for the autonomous Kurdish region.
September’s referendum was initiated by then Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, for whom the repercussions were severe.
Barzani at the beginning of November announced he was stepping aside, having lost almost all of the territory disputed between Kurdish capital Irbil and Baghdad.
The Kurds also lost all of the oil resources in Kirkuk province that could have ensured the viability of a hypothetical Kurdish state.


Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

Updated 24 May 2018
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Israel announces plan to approve 2,500 new settler homes in West Bank

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister said on Thursday he plans to seek approval next week for the construction of some 2,500 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Avigdor Lieberman, writing on Twitter, said a regional planning board would be asked to designate 1,400 of the housing units for immediate construction.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues in efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider settlements that Israel has built in territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal.

Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

“We will promote building in all of Judea and Samaria, from the north to south, in small communities and in large ones,” Lieberman wrote, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials, who have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.