Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Roz Nouri Shawez, who is the highest-level Kurdish official in the government, announced Thursday that the Kurdish political bloc will suspend its participation in the country's government and pull out its ministers from Iraq's cabinet.
The announcement from Shawez came after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday accused Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan, of becoming an operations base for the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The statement from Maliki came at a time when Kurdish President Masoud Barzani had already asked his parliament to form a referendum to secede from Iraq, following ISIS' offensive.
"Such statements are meant to hide the big security fiasco by blaming others, and we announce our boycott of Cabinet meetings," Shawez said Thursday, according to Associated Press, which reported that Kurdish ministers hold senior positions in the Iraqi government including in departments managing foreign affairs, trade, health and immigration.
Maliki had said Wednesday, according to Al Jazeera: “We will never be silent about Erbil becoming a base for the operations of the Islamic State and Baathists and al-Qaeda and the terrorists,” warning Kurdish ministers that their decision to sever connections with Baghdad could prove expensive.
The Kurdish military has loosened ISIS' grip on the oil-rich regions of Iraq, including Kirkuk, but has also said it won't hand these regions back to the Iraqi government, which is dominated by leaders from the majority Shia sect. Earlier this month, Kurdish leaders in the Iraqi parliament staged a walk out from a session when the issue of their independence was raised.