Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani vows to hold independence referendum despite objections

Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani vows to hold independence referendum despite objections

Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani vows to hold independence referendum despite objections

AFP photo

Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) President Masoud Barzani has once again said the referendum on independence scheduled to be held on Sept. 25 will not be delayed if no better alternative emerges, as the Turkish, Iraqi and regional authorities, as well as the United States and Britain, vocally oppose the vote. 

Speaking to Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya on Sept. 5, Barzani said his objective is “to achieve independence for the nation” and once again vowed that his own duties “will finish after independence is achieved,” adding that he “was born for the independence of Kurdistan.”

Barzani previously said he will not stand in presidential elections scheduled to be held on Nov. 1, nor will he support his family members running. 

During the interview, Barzani said those calling for the referendum to be delayed should “provide an alternative.”

Also on Sept. 5, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım reiterated Turkey’s strong opposition against the referendum, describing the move as a “grave mistake.” 

“This referendum should not be carried out. Problems are already at the highest level in the region. Adding yet another problem would have not a single contribution to the region and to regional countries,” Yıldırım told reporters at a reception held late Sept. 5 to mark the beginning of the judicial year. 

“We have always stressed that the decision of the regional government in northern Iraq to hold a referendum is a grave mistake. We continue to think this way,” he said, stressing that the government and its main supporter, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have “no disagreement on this issue” despite reports to the contrary. 

In addition to Ankara, Washington and London have called the timing of the independence vote wrong, citing Iraqi unity and the ongoing war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Last month, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition Brett McGurk and a delegation including Secretary of Defense James Mattis met separately with Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

After the visit, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad posted a statement summarizing McGurk’s visit, reading that the U.S. is ready to support a “new framework for dialogue” between the regional and central governments.

Baghdad has called the referendum “unconstitutional and unilateral” and vowed to not recognize the result.
Campaigning for and against the referendum officially began on Sept. 5.