Barzani unswayed by Arab League request to postpone referendum
President Masoud Barzani told the visiting Arab League chief that it is not the decision of an individual to delay the referendum in response to a request from the head of the pan-Arab group for Kurdistan to postpone the vote “for a period of time” while talks are held between Erbil and Baghdad under the watch of the international community.
Barzani said the decision to hold the independence referendum belongs to the people and political parties of Kurdistan.
Barzani met with Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit in the company of members of the High Referendum Council.
According to a statement released by the presidency’s office, Barzani highlighted historical relations between Erbil and Baghdad, a partnership that has failed after agreements were violated and the constitution not implemented.
Given the past failed experiences, "trust has eroded" between them, Barzani explained, and, therefore, the Kurdistan Region decided to hold referendum and the vote will take place "on time."
He said the Region will pursue the language of peace and dialogue in order to obtain its rights.
Aboul-Gheit said the Kurdistan Region held a position of significance for the Arab League and wished it stability and strength.
Masoud Barzani and referendum council members meet with Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and representatives from the Arab League. Photo: Kurdistan Region Presidency
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and visiting Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit have begun meeting in Erbil.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit arrived in Erbil where he is scheduled to meet with Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, notably to stress the unity of Iraq while the Region prepares a bid for independence in a referendum opposed by the League.
According to an announcement from the League, Aboul-Gheit is expected to stress dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.
The Kurdistan Region will hold an independence referendum on September 25, despite mounting regional and international pressure to postpone or cancel the vote.
Barzani had already declined a request from Aboul-Gheit to reconsider the independence referendum
, saying that Iraq was moving towards “a great danger” if the current arrangements between the Kurdish and Iraqi government remain.
“We have come to the conclusion that we are not welcome and not accepted as citizens and real partners,” Barzani wrote in letter responding to Aboul-Gheit's request. He listed a history of genocide and discrimination at the hands of successive Iraqi governments since its foundation in 1920.
“That is why we do not accept subordination and marginalization; and therefore, our friends in Iraq should be blamed, not us, because they are the ones who pushed us [towards holding the referendum],” the letter continued.
Aboul-Gheit had sent a letter to President Barzani calling on him to re-think plans to hold the September 25 referendum, as reported by the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in early August.
Iraq is a founding member of the Arab League and the current Iraqi constitution that came into effect in 2005 stipulates that it “commits to its charter.”
Iraq considers the referendum unilateral and unconstitutional. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said they will not engage with the outcome of the vote.
“The referendum that is expected to be held will carry a negative message to the people of the Iraqi nation whom are non-Kurds, and opens the door in the way of disintegration and fragmentation, and increases the regional complexities,” Aboul-Gheit said in his missive to Barzani.
He added that the referendum is being held at a “dangerous time” that requires more unity.
He warned that the September vote may force “all parties” to undertake tough decisions.
“Taking steps without national unity, and without coordination and approval of the government in Baghdad may in itself aggravate the situation and force all parties to take tough stances that do not serve the future of Iraqis, including the Kurds,” stated the letter from the Arab leader who represents 22 Arab states.
Barzani, in his latest meeting with the Region's societal groups, addressed artists and journalists, saying despite "mounting pressure" from regional and world countries, the independence referendum will take place as scheduled because there is no alternative.