A man sews a flag of Kurdistan bearing the portrait of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani In Erbil on June 8, 2017. President Barzani has asked the people of Kurdistan to head to the ballot box on September 25 "to determine their own fate" as the region is going to hold the referendum on independence in the Iraqi Kurdistan and the disputed areas, claimed both by Erbil and Baghdad. Photo: AFP/Safin Hamed
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A senior Kurdish official who has been a leading member of a joint Kurdish committee to help prepare the referendum this fall has said that the objective of the referendum remains to have one goal — statehood — but that does not mean declaring an independent state the day after; just as the time lapse between the referendum held in Britain to leave the European Union (Brexit) is being followed by at least two years of negotiations between the UK and the European bloc.
Hoshyar Zebari, a senior member of President Barzani’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Rudaw on Sunday that he was misquoted by the media regarding his recent interview with the media.
“Referendum is for one objective,” Zebari said when asked whether the referendum is to declare independence, “but this does not mean that we will hold referendum on September 25, and on September 26 we will declare the state of Kurdistan,” he added, insisting that he had told the media that it is not going to be an “automatic” declaration the day after the referendum.
He gave the example of the so-called Brexit, when last summer Britain held a referendum to formally leave the EU, but the process will take at least two years of negotiations with the European leaders.
“That is why the issue is not automatic, and that is what I have said all along,” Zebari said about the duration between the referendum and statehood.
“We should bare everything [in terms of pressure] in return for a greater objective which is holding the referendum and then towards statehood,” he added. “But it is a different phase and does not come simultaneously. Many of our and our nation's enemies want to jump straightaway to its result. But no, we will first hold referendum.”
“The process of preparing and founding an independent state is a different course,” he added, saying that the referendum is not “risk free” but should take the “historical opportunity” after missing many such opportunities in the past.
He added that the process is “half way through” as some of the Kurdish parties and the Kurdish government has set the time of the election.
Regarding the reactions to the referendum by the neighboring countries and some world states, he said that “the reactions were as we expected them to be,” and none have gone beyond the Kurdish assessment as the result of the Wednesday’s decision to set the date for what he called a “historical” process in the fall.
Reuters reported on Friday that Zebari expected "yes" vote would simply strengthen the Kurds' hand in talks with Baghdad rather than leading automatically to a break from Iraq, nor would an independent Kurdistan annex the oil-rich region of Kirkuk and three other disputed regions in Kurdish-controlled territory.