US special envoy to the coalition against ISIS Brett McGurk said on Thursday he was optimistic about the possibility that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership would accept a plan to delay the independence referendum.
Speaking during a news conference held in Erbil on Thursday, McGurk warned that moving forward with the referendum on Sept. 25 would be a “risky” move for Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, in the absence of international support for it at this moment.
He noted that the US has proposed an “alternative path” to the Kurdistan Region’s upcoming independence referendum.
McGurk, along with Jan Kubis, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, and the US and UK ambassadors to Iraq, met with the President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani.
Kurdistan’s presidency said in a statement that the delegation offered “an alternative for the referendum in Kurdistan on September 25”.
It added that Barzani welcomed the constructive dialogue with the diplomats, quoting him as saying: “The decision to hold the referendum is not only mine... We will discuss this issue with the political leadership in Kurdistan and we will announce our position soon.”
McGurk affirmed the referendum was “ill-timed and ill-advised, it is not something we can support.”
According to McGurk, Barzani welcomed the “constructive discussions” in his meeting with the US officials and the UN and UK representatives.
Few hours following the meeting, Barzani told a crowd of supporters in the city of Zakho in the province of Dohuk that the region would not postpone the referendum unless a “better alternative” meets the aspirations of the Kurdish people.
“If the only aim is to postpone the referendum, the postponement will never happen,” Barzani said.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Member of the Supreme Council for the Referendum Mohammed Saadeddin said: “We are waiting for the meeting to be held by the President with the political leadership in Kurdistan over the next few days, to discuss the current situation and the alternative plan presented by the international coalition.”
Kurdistan’s parliament is expected to convene on Friday to vote on the referendum. AFP quoted a spokesman for the regional parliament, who said the legislative body would meet on Friday at 7 pm to “give a legitimate framework for the referendum.”