Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) exchanges documents with then Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Moscow on February 11, 2008. File photo: Getty Images/Maxim Marmur
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Russia’s ‘positive’ stance with regard to the Kurdish independence referendum has empowered the Kurds in their discussions and talks with other countries, such as the European Union and the United States, a Kurdish official told Rudaw in a recent interview.
Hoshyar Zebari, a member of the Kurdistan High Referendum Council said that the Russian view of the referendum, as expressed by its foreign minister, is very “positive” and “progressive.”
Lavrov also suggested that that process and its outcome must be implemented peacefully, adding that Moscow was willing to help both Baghdad and Erbil in a way that would respect both sides.
Zebari, who served as Iraq’s foreign and finance minister, said that the Kurdistan Region finds the Russian stance promising.
“It was very positive,” Zebari said when asked about Lavrov’s stance.
Asked whether it will impact the decision of other countries, he said, “Very [much so], it had a very extraordinary impact. We [consider] it a very progressive stance.”
He said the remarks were “timely” and empowered the Kurds in explaining their position in their talks over the historic vote that is scheduled for September 25.
“It has impact on Europe, it has impact on the US,” he said.
A Kurdish delegation headed by President Masoud Barzani visited Brussels to rally support for the referendum in Europe in early July.
Zebari had earlier said that they were going to visit each permanent member of the UN Security Council, including the US and Russia, to discuss the referendum.
He said that he read between the lines that Lavrov was doubtful that the referendum will be held, something he added the Kurdistan Region has to address with “practical steps.”
“If you followed his [Lavrov’s] remarks, I looked at it very carefully because I know him personally—we have been dealing with him for more than 10 years—even he, too, had doubts on whether it will be held. In this respect, we should remove the doubts from the minds of the people,” Zebari concluded.
Mala Bakhtiar, a senior Kurdish official and senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), stated on Thursday that Hungary and Belgium have already expressed their willingness to support the referendum.
Turkey, Iran, and the Iraqi government have expressed their objection to the Kurdish plan.
The US, among others, has so far only suggested a change in the date of the referendum.