The northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani said Sunday that the controversial referendum scheduled for Sept. 25 will be held as planned despite calls from Baghdad, neighboring countries and international community for suspension or termination of the process.
Speaking at a press conference in KRG capital Irbil a day before the referendum, Barzani said Iraq has turned into a "sectarian state" and claimed that the referendum aims to restore the democratic and federal structure of the country.
''We are never going back to Baghdad to renegotiate failed partnership," Barzani said, adding that the referendum will not determine the borders and dialogue and negotiations with Baghdad will resume after the referendum.
Mainly addressing to Turkey and Iran, which have their own sizeable Kurdish communities and fiercely rejected the referendum, Barzani said that Iraqi Kurds will respect laws on international boundaries.
Regarding a question on Turkey's ongoing military drill on the border and the possibility of closing the border gates, Barzani responded that it is not of their concern what Turkey is doing inside its borders, whereas he hopes that shutting down the border, acting as the main lifeline of KRG economy, will not happen since both sides would not benefit from this.
Iraqi Kurds in provinces controlled by the KRG in northern Iraq, including those who are contested between the central government and KRG, are set to head to polls on Monday to vote in a controversial referendum on whether to secede from Iraq.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the U.N. have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.
Iraq's central government has threatened to intervene militarily if the vote leads to violence.
Barzani has said a "Yes" vote would not result in an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.