KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – On Tuesday, the President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani visited Kirkuk and discussed the upcoming referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, scheduled for Sep. 25.
Kirkuk is a diverse province made up of Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians and a Kurdish majority group. It is one of the disputed territories included in the Kurdistan Region referendum.
“We will not allow anyone to destabilize Kirkuk and create insecurity. We respect the opinions of those who are not in favor of the referendum, but at the same time, the view of the majority people in the province, which is in support of the referendum, should similar warrant the same respect,” Barzani said, reiterating that the referendum would not be postponed.
“Kirkuk will always remain a model city with regards to peace, brotherhood, and coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups,” Barzani added.
The President also noted that whoever attempts to threaten the safety of the people in the Kurdistan Region, would bring about a severe response. “We have the right to defend ourselves.”
“The people of Kirkuk will decide on their destiny. We will not allow anyone to hinder the people of Kirkuk's right to decide their future,” Barzani stated.
He explained that the Kurdistan Region has sincerely tried to stay with Iraq, and operate as a real partner, but that now, “there is nothing left to connect the Region with Baghdad.”
“We won’t compromise on the identity of Kirkuk, which is Kurdistani and home to all its ethnic and religious groups, a symbol of brotherhood and coexistence,” he emphasized.
Barzani responded to rumors of possible threats of attacks by outside militant groups on Kirkuk, saying, “Those who threaten to spark a conflict should also expect a reaction.”
The Kurdish President called out Baghdad's attempts at removing current Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim from office, stating the Kurdistan Region would not let that happen.
Regarding the Hawija military operation, the last Islamic State's (IS) last stronghold in northern Iraq west of Kirkuk, Barzani accused Baghdad of delaying the offensive to retake the city of Hawija for political purposes.
Editing by G.H. Renaud