Barzani announces his resignation as Iraq’s Kurdish leader

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani gestures during a press conference with German Foreign Affairs Minister in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, on April 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED

Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government Mosoud Barzani has told parliament in Erbil that he will step down as leader, following mounting criticism of the president.

President Masoud Barzani has told the Kurdish parliament in Erbil that he will step down as leader of the troubled Kurdistan Regional Government, following mounting criticism.

Speaking at a closed parliamentary session on Sunday, Barzani read a letter saying he will not seek to extend his term as president after 1 November, effectively resigning from government.

“After 1 November, I will no longer exercise my functions, and I reject any extension of my mandate,” the veteran Kurdish politician told parliament.

“Changing the law on the presidency of Kurdistan or prolonging the presidential term is not acceptable,” he said.

He told parliament he would remain as a member of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force alligned to the KRG and the Barzani family.

The Kurdish president has come under mounting criticism over his handling of the 25 September referendum, when Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence.

This led to a crisis with regional states opposed to the vote and the Iraqi government in Baghdad which launched a blockade on the Kurdish territories.

A surprise military offensive on the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk led to a humiliating defeat for Kurdish forces in the area.

Initial excitement about the referendum in Kurdish regions soon soured, when Barzani became politically isolated and the Kurdish economy looked in dire shape due to the loss of oil-rich regions and the Baghdad blockade.