ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – President Masoud Barzani is to visit Brussels heading a high-level Kurdish delegation to discuss the referendum on independence scheduled for September 25 this year, a senior Kurdish official told Rudaw.
This comes after some political parties who are part of the referendum committee tasked with preparing the referendum held a meeting hosted by President Barzani in Erbil on Saturday.
Hoshyar Zebari, a senior member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) who attended the meeting on Saturday, confirmed the visit to Rudaw.
In the meeting today it was determined to form two committees as “practical steps” whose missions are to hold negotiations with Baghdad and other countries regarding the referendum, Rudaw’s Sangar Abdulrahman reported.
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Barzani said that the delegation will "soon" visit Brussels. .
Sadiq Jabari, who also attended the Saturday meeting representing the Kurdistan Socialist Party, said that President Barzani will also visit the United States on the issue of referendum.
Jabari added that members of the referendum committee will visit the neighbouring and the Gulf countries to rally support for the referendum.
A statement from the High Referendum Committee read that the participating parties in the meeting stated their “commitment” to the decision reached on June 7.
The June 7 meeting between the majority of parties in Kurdistan and the Kurdish government set September 25 to hold an independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region as well as the disputed areas as defined in the Iraqi constitution. They are otherwise called Kurdistani areas by Kurds and include the multi-ethnic, oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which came under de facto Peshmerga control in 2014 when the Iraqi army retreated in the face of ISIS advances.
The statement from the High Referendum Committee also mentioned that the meeting set up the structure of the High Committee and smaller committees.
It added that the Kurdish government in cooperation with Kurdistan’s Independent High Electoral Commission and the concerned parties will provide the necessities for conducting the referendum.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who had attended the June 7 meeting refused to send its representative
to the Saturday meeting unless the suspended parliament is reopened.
Mahmud Sangawi, a senior PUK official stated on Saturday that though they support the referendum, their support remains conditional to the reactivation of parliament.
Sangawi said that the party had decided earlier that they support the referendum, but that “before we enter the referendum committee, the parliament must be reactivated and that barriers should not be put in the way of the parliament.”
“The majority of the leadership convened yesterday and decided that anyone who attends the referendum committee without reactivating the parliament, he will represent himself and will not be the representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,” Sangawi added.
Deputy Prime Minister Talabani and Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, both from the PUK attended the meeting on Saturday in their capacity as government officials.
Zebari talked to reporters after the meeting, claiming that both Talabani, and Karim “100 percent” represented the party, and that they were PUK representatives at the meeting.
Talabani’s media officer told the PUK Media, an official outlet of the party, Saturday that Talabani attended the meeting as the Deputy PM, and not as a PUK member, adding that he attended the meeting based on an official invitation to the KRG which he represented today in the meeting.
The PUK was instrumental, along the KDP, in deciding September 25 for the vote.
Gorran Movement and the Islamic Group (Komal) have long refused to attend meetings related to the referendum.
Gorran, PUK, the Islamic Union, and Komal — all members of the Kurdish coalition government — say they are in favor of the referendum, but it must have a mandate from the now paralyzed Kurdistan parliament.
Zebari also told reporters that they have proposed a “detailed proposal” to reactivate the parliament according to which the parliament speaker can return to his position.
“Our institutions, one of them is parliament, must be reactivated,” Zebari said, reiterating the fact that the referendum does not need an act from the parliament, but that is legitimacy will be more “valid” if the Kurdish parliament was functioning.
“We have presented a very detailed proposal to our brothers in Gorran, and other parties that we we are prepared to again reactivate the parliament, even for the parliament speaker to return. But this must be done according to an agreement between the KDP, PUK, Gorran and other Kurdistan parties,” he added.
Gorran, with last May’s alliance agreement with the PUK that remains largely unimplemented, stated that they will seek an “explanation” from the PUK regarding the participation of “two senior” members of the PUK, Gorran-owned Sbeiy outlet quoted Ismail Namiq as saying.
Namiq is a member of the joint Gorran-PUK membership that was created after the May agreement.
The joint leadership is meeting to discuss the issue of the referendum, among other topics.
All attempts to reactivate the parliament has so far failed, including a joint offer from the KDP and PUK on June 13, on the condition that the present chief of staff, including the parliament speaker, resign after the first session.
Komal and Gorran turned down the offer, saying that they do not accept any conditions attached to any initiatives aimed at reopening the parliament.
The Kurdish parliament has not convened since October 2015 when the speaker Yousif Mohammed, a Gorran party member, was barred from returning to the capital.
The KDP accused Gorran of orchestrating the violent protests in several towns of Sulaimani province that led to the death of KDP members and torching its offices. Gorran denied the accusations.