Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has announced he will step down as president of the region's government in November, after an independence referendum he championed backfired and triggered a regional crisis.
Barzani, who has campaigned for Kurdish self-determination for nearly four decades, asked Parliament in a letter to take measures to fill the resulting power vacuum.
"I refuse to continue in the position of president of the region after November 1," said the letter, which was published by his Kurdistan Democratic Party.
"I will continue serving Kurdistan as a Peshmerga Kurdish fighter."
After decades of struggle, critics say Barzani made one of his biggest mistakes by pushing hard for a September 25 referendum.
Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence, but won little sympathy outside their region.
As well as the Iraqi Government, Turkey and Iran threatened to take tough action against any move towards secession, fearing it would encourage their own restive Kurdish populations to follow suit.
The United States and other Western powers joined the chorus of opposition to the vote.
The Baghdad Government rejected it as illegal and sent troops to seize the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds regard as the heart of any future homeland.
In just a few hours, the city the Kurds regard as sacred was gone, along with other Kurdish-held territory across the north.
Barzani said the referendum results ‘can never be erased' and that Iraq no longer believes in Kurdish rights and used the referendum as a pretext to attack Kurdistan.
"Three million votes for Kurdistan independence created history and cannot be erased," he said.
The Kurdish Leader criticized the United States for allowing tanks supplied to Iraqi forces to fight Daesh terrorist groups' militants to be used against the Kurds.
"Why would Washington want to punish Kurdistan?" he said.
But many critics have accused Barzani of having led his people to disaster.
For many years, he had used cunning and patience to help the Kurds survive long years of brutality under Saddam Hussein.
After the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003, Barzani became a central figure in the drive to create an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
Kurdish presidential elections scheduled to be held in November have been postponed indefinitely.
The Kurdish leader was born in 1946, soon after his legendary father founded a party to fight for the rights of Iraqi Kurds.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team