The White House in Washington DC, where Kurdish envoys are lobbying for an independence vote: Photo: AFP
WASHINGTON DC – As Iraq’s autonomous Kurds brace for a referendum and possible split from the rest of the country, Erbil has embarked on a global diplomacy to sound opinion on the issue of Kurdish independence.
“We spoke with the Americans about self-determination, and self-determination is done through a referendum,” Fuad Hussein, the Kurdistan president’s chief of staff, told Rudaw on Thursday. “It is something that the people of Kurdistan will decide.”
Hussein was on an official visit to the US capital with Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa to meet with American counterparts.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Erbil more than a fortnight ago, where he asked the Kurds to stay with a united Iraq and help Baghdad establish an inclusive government.
However, according to Mustafa, the American tone is now different in some of the meetings.
“Those kinds of statements have always been there,” Mustafa told Rudaw in Washington, referring to a comment by the State Department spokeswoman, who said that America prefers a united Iraq.
“But what is important is the content,” Mustafa said. “Not only in America, but in many other countries, in Europe, in Arab countries and the international community there has been a change that is more welcoming to the Kurdistan Region.”
During their visit the Kurdish diplomats met with the initial mastermind of Iraq’s three-state solution, former US vice president Joe Biden.
“Fruitful discussions with our longtime friend, vice president Biden,” said Mustafa in a tweet on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani officially broke the ice when he asked the Kurdish parliament in Erbil to set a date for an independence referendum.
“We waited 10 years and the situation got only worse,” Barzani told Kurdish lawmakers about Kurdistan’s participation in Iraqi politics. “We have to think of ourselves and our future.”
“We have to decide for ourselves and not wait for others to do so on our behalf,” he said.
Barzani’s chief of staff, Hussein, has been talking to foreign officials and the world media on the Kurdish decision for a referendum on the future of the autonomous region.
“The people of Kurdistan will decide and everyone will respect what they choose,” said Hussein.
“Iraq is not one Iraq anymore,” he told BBC America during his visit. “We now have three states in one.”