US President Donald Trump looks down after getting off Air Force One in Bedminster, New Jersey on September 15, 2017. Photo: AFP / Mandel Ngan
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The White House has called on the Kurdistan Region to “call off” the independence referendum scheduled for September 25, saying that the vote is “particularly provocative and destabilizing” in the disputed areas.
The statement comes as the Kurdish parliament voted Friday evening to back the referendum at its stated time, only nine days from now in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad such as the oil-rich Kirkuk province.
“The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month,” the statement read published on Friday attributed to the press secretary of the White House.
It said that the have repeatedly stated that the vote is “distracting” the efforts to defeat the ISIS group and stabilize the liberated areas. The Kurdish officials, including Peshmerga commanders, have said that the vote would not affect their contribution to the war against the ISIS group.
“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” it added.
“We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate.”
Speaking at a rally in Amedi earlier on Friday, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said in a defiant message that the people of Kurdistan do not take orders from such a parliament that has sidelined the Kurdish minority.
“We also tell them that your decision will not reach Kurdistan. So don't even bother,” Barzani said to the Iraqi parliament.
The US, UN, and UK presented an “alternative” to Barzani in a meeting on Thursday as they tried to persuade him to postpone the referendum.
Barzani said on Friday that no alternative has been offered that can replace the independence referendum.
No alternative that can replace the independence referendum has been offered, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said one day after the US, UN, and UK presented what they called an “alternative” in an effort to convince Erbil to postpone the vote.
“To this date, we have not received an alternative that can take the place of the referendum,” Barzani told a pro-referendum rally in Amedi, Friday evening.
He also slammed those claiming the referendum does not have legitimacy.
“The referendum’s legitimacy comes from the people of Kurdistan, not from the outside,” Barzani said to the cheering crowd, waving Kurdistan flags.
Brett McGurk, the US Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS Global Coalition, said on Thursday that the referendum does have “international legitimacy” and the US holds the same view as the Global Coalition that considers the vote “ill-advised” and “ill-timed.”
The US Envoy said at a press conference in Erbil that their alternative is one that will be acceptable to all sides, without getting into details.
Barzani met the visiting delegation on Thursday at a coordination center for the war against ISIS.
The Kurdistan president said at the rally it was a disappointment the Global Coalition did not take into consideration the Peshmerga’s contribution to the war.
“We thought that in reward to the people of Kurdistan – as a result of the blood of all these martyrs and the Peshmerga breaking the myth of ISIS – they will say that you the people of Kurdistan, it is your right. Since they do not take that into consideration, we do not take theirs either, not even a bit,” Barzani said.
The Peshmerga have lost about 2,000 soldiers and another about 10,000 have been injured since the war against ISIS began in 2014.
Barzani told the crowd that while there are risks associated with the vote, “the risk of waiting... is far more dangerous.”