Political Transition in Iraqi Kurdistan Region

Mr Abadi insisted that the vote was unconstitutional and ordered pro-government forces to retake disputed areas held by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters since 2014, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, sparking clashes that left dozens dead.

"You should therefore meet at your earliest convenience to ensure there is no legal vacuum in the execution of the duties and powers of the president of the region", said Barzani in a letter he submitted to parliament before his address, according to a copy released online.

The losses were a major blow to the Kurds' aspirations for their own state and prompted Mr Barzani to declare on Sunday that he wanted his presidential powers to be distributed among the region's prime minister, parliament and judiciary.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is calling for calm and respect for the law after Barzani's announcement. The autonomous Kurdish Regional Government has faced strong criticism after it held an independence referendum last month.

And the suspension of the presidency, said Zaid Ali, author of "The Struggle for Iraq's Future", has created an impossible task for Kurdish lawmakers.

Kurdish president Masoud Barzani gives a televised speech in Erbil, announcing his intention to step down, on October 29, 2017. "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.

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The region's airspace was closed to global commercial flights, Turkey threatened the use of military force and both Tehran and Ankara threatened to close border crossings vital to the land-locked region. The development comes roughly six weeks after Iraqi Kurds voted on a controversial independence referendum that Mr. Barzani had championed.

For the Kurds, the situation five weeks on from the 25 September referendum - which returned a result 93 per cent in favour of splitting from the central government - is a bleak one.

The two sides are now negotiating control of border posts including areas where an important oil pipeline crosses into Turkey. It was extended because of fighting with the Islamic State militant group, but parliament had not acted on a further extension in recent years. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional materials from Reuters.

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  • Ryan Wade