Iraq’s Kurds have expressed their commitment to hold the independence referendum on September 25, despite repeated demands by the United States to postpone such a move to prevent the deterioration of relations with the central government in Bagdad.
The Higher Council for the Referendum in Kurdistan, during a meeting on Wednesday chaired by President Masoud Barzani, reviewed the results of the recent visit conducted by the Kurdish delegation to Baghdad, as well as the outcome of Barzani’s talks with US Defense Secretary James Mattis in Erbil on Wednesday.
The council’s meeting was held ahead of the arrival of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Erbil, following a visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss developments of the battle to liberate Tal Afar, relations between Erbil and Baghdad and the deadline set by the Kurdistan region to hold the referendum on September 25.
Sources in the higher council noted that the Kurdish delegation held a series of meetings with the different Iraqi parties in Baghdad on the process of the referendum and presented a detailed report on the results of these meetings to Barzani and the council’s members.
While Washington, Baghdad, Ankara and Tehran have called on the Kurdish leadership to postpone the independence referendum, Barzani and the region’s political leaders have reiterated their adherence to decide on the fate of the region on September 25.
“The response is very clear: the referendum will not be postponed even for one minute except by an alternative, and the alternative is international guarantees signed by all parties, especially the main parties, represented by Baghdad, the United States, and even Turkey and Iran”, Kurdish president’s media advisor Kifah Mahmoud told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“These guarantees must be made in writing, and will set another date for the referendum, and undertake to respect its results,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Turkish foreign minister visited Iraq on Wednesday to warn Iraqi and Kurdish leaders against next month’s independence referendum.
“The decision to hold this referendum is a mistake,” Cavusoglu was quoted by AFP as saying, during a joint news conference with Jaafari.
“We have said it before (to Iraqi Kurdish leaders) and today during my visit to Erbil I will repeat that it is a mistake,” he added.