Kurdish President Barzani says he will step down

Erbil: The Iraqi Kurdistan regional President announced on Sunday that he will not extend his term in office, amid a serious crisis with the central government in Baghdad over the region’s recent independence referendum.

Omid Khoshnaw, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said President Masoud Barzani’s decision, which does not imply automatic resignation from the post, was made by the Kurdish leader in a letter sent to the regional parliament to be read in a closed session, Efe reported.

The Kurdish parliament is set to vote on Sunday on the possibility of dividing the functions of Barzani among the three powers; legislative, executive and judicial, until the new elections slated for July.

Barzani, 71, won the elections in 2005 and 2009, and since 2013 has extended his mandate by a decision of the Kurdish parliament without the need to go to the polls.

Regional, parliamentary and presidential elections were scheduled to take place on November 1, but the electoral committee has postponed them for July due to the lack of candidates.

Barzani’s departure coincides with talks between the Kurdish authorities and the Iraqi government to end the military offensive launched by Baghdad in retaliation for a referendum held in Kurdistan on September 25, when 92 per cent of the voters favoured independence.

The Iraqi government responded to the independence referendum, which is considered illegal by Baghdad, with a series of economic reprisals and a military campaign to gain control of a number of territories held by the Kurdish army since 2014, including the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.

Both sides agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire on Friday to allow negotiations and since then no new hostilities have been recorded.