Female students take part in the annual Kurdistan flag day on December 17, 2013. File photo:Rudaw
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Kirkuk governor has welcomed a call by the Kurdish government on Wednesday to hold a referendum on independence in September including in his province which Baghdad considers part of the outstanding disputed territories.
Governor Najmadin Karim described the decision to hold the referendum on September 25 as “important” that will eventually leads to declaring independence.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on Monday that from their perspective the times had changed and there no longer was such a word as “disputed territories” in their dictionary.
“Referendum will certainly be held to walk towards independence and eventually achieving independence,” Karim said as he responded to what he called doubts that declaration may not follow a yes-vote on independence.
"I am sure the people of Kirkuk will support and vote for it, not only Kurds, but also Arabs and Turkmen," Karim told Rudaw on Wednesday.
The multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk is home to Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs, and is otherwise dubbed the Jerusalem of Kurds or the heart of Kurdistan. It has been at the center of Kurdish rebellions since the Second World War, with Baghdad refusing to agree to any settlement.
A statement from a meeting between the majority of Kurdish political parties, President Masoud Barzani and the PM Barzani on Wednesday read that the Kurdistan areas outside the borders of the Kurdistan Region, another word for the disputed areas, would take part in the historical vote.
PM Barzani refused on Monday to call any of the areas disputed, calling on them Kurdistani areas, reiterating a similar stance President Barzani expressed in June 2014 when he said article 140 that concerns the disputed areas was finished.
“We no longer have disputed areas,” PM Barzani said, “It has been a long time that these areas were liberated. And of course these areas have never been disputed areas. They are the Kurdistan Region and have been liberated by the blood of the martyrs and the Peshmerga. Any talk on this issue should not be like it used to be some years ago. I believe that Baghdad also understands this...this has gone from our dictionary.”
PM Barzani said that Erbil is ready to take the path of dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues between the two sides, calling for a win-win solution.
"If there is a path, a gate or a window to solve the problems with Baghdad, be certain [that we are ready]," Barzani said at the same press conference.
PM Barzani said that he told the same things to an Iraqi delegation at the International Economic Forum in the Russian city of St. Petersburg earlier this month.
Kurdish forces took control of much of the so-called disputed territories when the Iraqi army fled in the facing of ISIS in June 2014.
“The desire of our Kurdish brothers to create a country of their own is their right given the desire and the objective and nobody has the right to deter them,” he said. “But holding a referendum at this time is not right as the ISIS war still rages, the region’s situation is not suitable and some neighboring countries believe this move poses a threat to the nation’s security themselves.”