The Kurdistani delegation in this August 14, 2017 photo are seen as they leave Erbil for Baghdad on a multi-day visit to discuss the independence referendum with Iraq and foreign missions. Photo: Rudaw
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Kurdistani delegation to Baghdad has refused to postpone the independence referendum as they met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the embassies of the United States, Iran, and Turkey, the head of the delegation told reporters on Tuesday.
The delegation is on a several-day visit to Baghdad. It is scheduled to meet with Iraqi politicians and other foreign missions to hold official discussions about the referendum that is set to take place on September 25.
They are now, on Wednesday, in a meeting with the Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri in the parliament building, and are to meet Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki later in the day.
Asked whether they have agreed to postpone the referendum as demanded by Iraq and the foreign embassies they have met with, Rozh Nuri Shaweys said they refused to do so, adding that they think the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad has reached a point that needs “radical solutions” manifested in a referendum.
“We did not agree to postpone the referendum. We find it necessary to hold the referendum on its time,” Shaweys added.
Iraq considers the vote unilateral, unconstitutional, and says it will not recognize the results.
The delegation met with the Iraqi PM for three hours on Monday following their arrival to Baghdad with Iraq calling for a negotiated solution within the framework of a united Iraq.
Abadi reportedly told the visiting delegation that Erbil already acts like a state
with an independent economy and an army that is exclusively under the Kurdish command.
Shaweys said that Baghdad’s view was that there are ways to solve outstanding issues between the Kurdistan Region and the federal government, and the Iraqis are ready to discuss these problems and further than that, they are ready to think about “other solutions within the framework of the territorial integrity of Iraq.”
He said that Erbil and Iraq began with a “good start” after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 but relations later deteriorated where problems and disagreements accumulated, resulting in “great distrust … that the people of Kurdistan and the majority of the parties in Kurdistan no longer believe in promises made by Baghdad.”
“This needs a radical solution. And we see this radical solution through the referendum,” he noted.
He confirmed the Iraqi statement that the two sides agreed to continue the path of dialogue and that talks should continue for “a long time.”
He said they have made the Kurdish views clear to the US, Turkish, and Iranian embassies in their visit.
“We will not be silent in this regard, and have not been silent. We expressed our view frankly,” Shaweys said about the right to practice the right to self-determination in the September vote.
The Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi told reporters after his meeting with the delegation that they will support any “negotiated agreement” between Erbil and Baghdad. Iran strongly opposes the referendum.
A Turkish government spokesperson and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters on Tuesday that they believe the referendum would lead to further “instability” in the region and that they call on Erbil to “reconsider” the decision.
The United States has said that it considers the timing of the referendum “wrong” and that it distracts attention from the fight against ISIS.
Shaweys reiterated that the disputed or Kurdistani areas, claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, would take part in the referendum if elected bodies in those areas asked Erbil to do so.
The Governor of Kirkuk, a disputed province with large oil reserves, has said that they are ready for the referendum.
The delegation has an intensive itinerary in Baghdad. They are to meet with several Iraqi officials, including the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Hadi al-Amri, a commander of the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.