“No turning back on independence referendum”: President Barzani
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, on Thursday said there was “no turning back” on the decision to hold the long-await referendum on Kurdish independence, but that he would “pursue it through dialogue with Baghdad” to avoid conflict.
In an interview with Reuters, Barzani explained that the timeline for seceding with Iraq after the Sept. 25 referendum was “flexible but not open-ended,” and that he expected the “yes” vote to win.
Barzani gave reassurances that the vote, and by extension an independent Kurdistan, would not destabilize the region despite opposition from neighboring Turkey, Iran and Syria.
The President also noted that the vote would decide the fate of the hotly-disputed Kirkuk region, which Peshmerga forces prevented the Islamic State from capturing in 2014 and have controlled and administered ever since.
"Whatever the people of Kirkuk decide within the referendum, that decision should be respected," said a relaxed Barzani.
He added that negotiations with Baghdad, regional and international powers would “start immediately after the vote” to ensure the transition and process remain peaceful and “amicable.”
"Our main goal is to implement and achieve the decision of our people through peace and dialogue," he said.
Barzani reiterated Baghdad’s lack of good faith for not respecting the constitutional provisions allowing Kurds to have greater powers under the federal state established after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and for not maintaining a “real partnership” with Erbil.
"For 14 years we have been waiting, and we have been discussing this partnership, but we have always been told it's not a good time and it's not acceptable timing, so my question is: when is the right time?"
He confidently stated that Kurds were ready to take responsibility for the outcome of the referendum and that delaying independence would only lead to further instability in the region.
"We have to rectify the history of mistreatment of our people and those who are saying that independence is not good, our question to them is, if it's not good for us, why is it good for you?"
"I don’t think anybody can stand against the big wave of the people of Kurdistan when they decide their destiny," he said, claiming that "the legitimacy of the people is bigger than the legitimacy of any of the political parties or any of the external interventions."
He stressed that his "Kurdish state" would give full assurances to ethnic minorities including Christians, Yazidis, and Shabaks.
Barzani cautioned that the end of IS in Mosul does not ensure a return to stability in Iraq.
"I have a big concern about the future of the area. I hope I will be wrong."
Iran-backed Shi’a militias have threatened to expel the Kurds by force from Kirkuk and other disputed areas, namely Sinjar, Makhmour, and Khanaquin.
Kurds are believed to be the largest stateless nation in the world, estimated to be over 40 million, mostly settled in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.