KRG insists on independence referendum despite internal and external objections

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published

A high-ranking Kurdish official has rejected calls to postpone the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) independence referendum that is planned to be held on Sept. 25, despite objections from Turkey, the U.S. and opposition parties.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday asked KRG President Masoud Barzani to postpone the independence referendum. According to a statement by Barzani's office, Barzani told Tillerson that the KRG has decided to take care of itself after its efforts to coexist with Iraq failed. "If the referendum is postponed, what kind of alternatives or guarantees are there for determining the future and fate of the Kurdish people?" Barzani said in response to the U.S. diplomat's request. Meanwhile KRG opposition party the Goran Movement, which has 20 seats out of 111 in the KRG parliament, has said that the referendum would be illegal if it goes ahead without the support of other parties. "Under the current political, security, economic and social conditions, it would be illegal to hold a referendum without having a consensus. Therefore, the referendum should be postponed to the appropriate time and this issue should be discussed in parliament," the Goran Movement said over the weekend.

However, former Iraqi Foreign and Finance Minister and advisor to KRG President Barzani, Hoshyar Zebari announced on Aug. 12 that the KRG will still hold the vote despite objections. "The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change," Zebari said.

Ankara has reiterated its stance regarding the proposed KRG referendum, arguing that Iraq's territorial integrity must be protected to avoid further turmoil in the region. On numerous occasions, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has criticized the KRG's decision to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25, saying that the move "deeply saddened" Ankara. "The KRG's decision to hold an independence referendum is not the right way to go. They will regret it," Erdoğan said last month.

KRG President Masoud Barzani announced on June 7 the decision to hold a referendum. Since then, every neighboring country - Turkey, Iran and Iraq - have discouraged the KRG from holding an independence vote. Moreover, the U.N, the EU, the U.S, Russia and the U.K. have also criticized the KRG's announcement for the referendum on independence, saying that the move will further intensify regional conflicts and will also harm efforts to fight Daesh in the region. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi also said that the upcoming Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum is not constitutional. Iran has also said that the referendum would not be "appropriate."

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