By Ali Sheikho
Massoud Barzani, president of northern Iraq’s Kurdish regional administration, said Wednesday that a planned referendum -- to be held in the region in September -- was aimed at achieving the region’s “separation from Iraq”.
Barzani also rejected proposals by certain quarters to postpone the controversial poll.
At a meeting with Muslim scholars in Erbil, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)’s administrative capital, Barzani declared that the planned referendum “concerns all [the region’s] political parties and the Kurdish people in general and not a single individual”.
The referendum is not a goal in and of itself, he asserted, “but a means of achieving separation” from the Iraqi state, adding: “The principles of partnership with Iraq no longer exist.”
“The Kurdish region cannot accept Baghdad’s current positions,” he said without elaborating.
The referendum, in which residents of the Kurdish region will vote on whether or not to formally secede from the Iraqi state, is slated to be held on Sept. 25.
“The referendum results won’t be binding,” Barzani said. “The poll is simply meant to assess public opinion in the region regarding the issue.”
Baghdad, meanwhile, has reiterated its rejection of the planned referendum, citing fears that the move could adversely affect the ongoing fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
According to the Iraqi government, holding the poll would also violate Iraq’s 2005 constitution and “would be of no political or economic benefit to the Kurds”.
Turkey, too, rejects the planned poll, saying that maintenance of Iraq’s territorial integrity is inextricably linked to the region’s security and prosperity.
The U.S., for its part, has expressed concern that the referendum will serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues, especially the ongoing fight against Daesh and the stabilization of war-battered Iraq.
The UN, meanwhile, has expressed its belief that the referendum should not be held in the absence of “mutual understanding” between Baghdad and Erbil.