KRG will push for referendum until last minute: Turkmen leader
Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
REUTERS photoKurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani will push for a Sept. 25 statehood referendum for the autonomous region in northern Iraq until the last minute, but may withdraw from the move if Baghdad and Washington meet its demands, a Turkmen leader has said.
Barzani’s persistence on holding the referendum on the given date despite international reactions, including those from Turkey, the U.S. and Germany, has a “tactical dimension,” Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) leader Arshad al-Salihi told daily Hürriyet.
A KRG team was set to visit Baghdad on Aug. 15, he said.
“We believe this delegation will hold a tight bargaining with the [central Iraqi] Baghdad administration,” he said, adding that Barzani might change his stance if Baghdad guarantees to pay the salaries of civil servants in the Kurdish region, pay all accumulated salaries and lift all obstacles on the KRG’s oil sales.
The KRG leader might also demand a long-term guarantee from the U.S. on the security of its soil, al-Salihi added.
A referendum might heat up tensions in the region and may lead to clashes, the Turkmen leader said, a concern that they shared with Baghdad, the U.S. and the U.N.
The U.S. State Department has said it was concerned that the referendum will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Turkey, Iran and Syria also oppose an independent Kurdistan.