Referendum won’t be postponed on ‘pretexts’ from Baghdad: Barzani

Referendum won’t be postponed on ‘pretexts’ from Baghdad: Barzani

Referendum won’t be postponed on ‘pretexts’ from Baghdad: Barzani

AA photo

Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani has said that a planned Sept. 25 referendum on independence is already being held late and cannot be postponed under “pretexts” from Iraq because “trust no longer exists between Arbil and Baghdad.”

Responding to reports that Arbil might agree to postpone the historic vote under promises from Baghdad to pay Peshmerga salaries or implement Article 140 of the constitution that addresses the issues of disputed areas, Barzani warned such undertakings from Iraq would not signify lasting change in the relationship between the Region and the central government. 

“After four months or so, they will reverse the situation to what it was,” Barzani told a meeting of civil society organizations and unions. “The fact is there is no trust left.”

The only way KRG could agree to postpone the vote is if there is a “better alternative, better guarantees,” he said, adding that such a guarantee does not exist at the present time.

Barzani made his comments after the KRG delegation completed a week of meetings in the Iraqi capital, the purpose of which was to discuss future relations between Arbil and Baghdad as neighbours, he said. 

As evidence of the broken trust between the two capitals, the delegation took with them a list of 55 articles of the Iraqi constitution they claim have been violated by Baghdad.

“Because of its own failures to respect the Iraqi constitution, Baghdad cannot now use that document as an excuse to say Kurdistan has no right to hold a referendum,” Barzani said. 

“It is a shame for them to mention the constitution,” said Barzani, because “every step they took was in violation of the constitution.”

Meanwhile, a delegation representing Iraq’s ruling Shi’ite coalition may meet Kurdish politicians again next week to try to convince them to delay or cancel a plan to hold an independence referendum, a negotiator said.

A first round of talks, held last week in Baghdad, brought the two sides closer and a second round could be held next week in the Kurdish capital Arbil, Abdullah al-Zaidi, a negotiator from the National Alliance, Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim ruling coalition, told Reuters late on Aug. 21.

The Kurdish delegation held separate meetings last week with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the National Alliance, in addition to other political parties in Baghdad.

The United States and other Western nations fear the vote could ignite a new conflict with Baghdad and possibly neighbouring countries, diverting attention from the ongoing war against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Iraq and Syria.

“They (the Kurds) want guarantees,” said Zaidi, who in charge of relations with the Kurdish parties at the National Alliance. “The question of the guarantees has been left to the next round of talks.”

The Kurds will not agree to consider to delay the vote without fixing another date for it, said Bakhtiar, executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo.

Turkey, Iran and Syria, which together with Iraq have sizeable Kurdish communities, all oppose an independent Kurdistan. Al-Abadi’s government has rejected the planned referendum as “unilateral” and unconstitutional.