DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has ruled out an alternative to the Kurdish independence referendum and therefore caled on people to vote on September 25.
Speaking at a rally for an independence vote in Duhok on Saturday evening with more than 30, 000 people in attendance, Barzani said that “to this date, we still have not received the alternative that could take the place of the referendum, and therefore cast your votes on September 25, and take your decision.”
He earlier said that the time has passed for an alternative to replace the independence vote on September 25.
“We said before, but the time is now late for that, that if there was a better and more guaranteed alternative in place of referendum ... then we welcome that. But nobody did that. Nobody brought a better alternative,” Barzani told people in the Nineveh Plains attending an event in support of the referendum.
President Barzani said that each country has the right to say they oppose the vote or for it to be postponed, though he disagrees with both positions. Although he added that he does not accept any state to question the legitimacy of the vote
“It is not acceptable if the situation reaches a point where they doubt the legitimacy of the referendum,” Barzani said.
“We do not take legitimacy from anyone, we take legitimacy from the people of Kurdistan, and from the blood of our martyrs,” Barzani said to the crowd who applauded his pronouncement, making reference to about 2,000 Peshmerga fighters who have lost their lives in the war against ISIS.
“For a state... to come and say that it is not legitimate, we refuse to listen to such talks from anyone, from any state,” Barzani said, making it clear that the UN’s charter allows for the right to self-determination.
Responding to those who call to postpone the vote to a later date, Barzani asked: “If you don’t recognize it now, how would you recognize it at a later time?”
The Kurdish president also touched on the issue of the cooperation between the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Mosul, something he praised and described it as “unexpected.”
He said the “harmony between the Peshmerga and the army must remain, no matter what future developments would be.”
Earlier in the day, senior Kurdish official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said that they believe the Kurdish leadership should take the “alternative” offered by the US, UK, and UN “very seriously," an indication that the PUK takes a different view from President Masoud Barzani who described the offer as not sufficient enough.
”We from the PUK believe that the alternative should be taken very seriously,” Mala Bakhtiyar told reporters in Sulaimani.
He said the Kurdish leadership is going to have “important” meetings over two days to study the joint offer.
Bakhtiyar explained his party and other officials are yet “to get know to know the content of the alternative ... to look at what guarantees are there to in fact implement the alternative,” the PUK official continued.
He added the “alternative is to solve problems in Iraq, not to take a seat at the United Nations.”
Bakhtiyar concluded that the alternative “with full consent of the Iraqi government” should make sure that all outstanding issues are solved, the constitution of Iraq upheld, and democracy respected. He said they do not want the talk to be confined to merely financial incentives.
The two differing comments by President Barzani and PUK official Bakhtiyar comes a day after the Kurdish parliament voted in a majority, including the PUK’s faction to hold the referendum on September 25.
Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK, as well as other Kurdish parties except for Gorran and the Islamic Group who have so far refused to back the vote, are members of the High Referendum Council that is expected to make a final decision on the proposed alternative, conditioned to the approval of the parliament.
A clause in the referendum law that was passed by the parliament Friday stipulates that the parliament must be consulted on “decisive” matters.
“Kurdistan’s parliament entitles relevant parties to pursue any other mechanism or decision to achieve the right of self-determination and all the other rights of Kurdistan’s nation and should return to Kurdistan’s parliament to deal with decisive questions, and tasks the High Elections and Referendum Commission to coordinate with these parties,” the law from the parliament reads.
President Barzani received the joint offer from the US, UK, and UN on Wednesday. His office said it will be studied by Kurdish leadership, and then responded to very soon.
The “alternative” that was put forward to the Kurdish leadership in place of the scheduled independence referendum stipulates Erbil to postpone the vote for two years in return for the issue being raised at the United Nations, something the Kurdish president refused saying the alternative be “stronger” than that, a Kurdish official close to Barzani revealed.
Mohammed Haji Mahmud, a veteran Peshmerga and Secretary of the Kurdish Socialist Party, told the Saudi-funded Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that joint offer from the foreign nations plus the UN did not meet the Kurdish demands.
President Barzani said on Friday that any offer should clearly achieve the Kurdish ultimate goal of statehood.
They offered postponing the vote for two years “until a meeting in the United Nations discusses the Iraqi file, including the Kurdistan Region and the independence referendum,” Mohammed known locally as Kaka Hama explained, and that the three stated countries plus the UN would make efforts to “solve the outstanding issues between the Regional government and federal government,” Kaka Hama detailed.
Kaka Hama said the offer was not something “concrete,” and that “the response from President Barzani was that the alternative should be stronger than referendum, and that the issue will be discussed with other Kurdistani parties to take a joint decision.”
Barzani indicated at a pro-referendum rally in Amedi on Friday evening that he refused the offer.
“To this date, we have not received an alternative that can take the place of the referendum,” Barzani said.
The White House demanded Friday that the Kurdish government “call off” the vote, saying that they do not support it, and that it will distract from efforts to defeat ISIS. The statement continued to call on Erbil to hold talks with Baghdad, which the US will “facilitate.”
Kaka Hama said that if the three countries and the UN are serious, they should assign a date for the vote, just like was the case of South Sudan.
Also a commander, Kaka Hama, said of the argument that there will be clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi because the vote is not valid.
“With or without referendum,” we are expecting such a clash, Kaka Hama noted in the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil.
Baghdad opposed the vote calling it unconstitutional, and the Iraqi parliament has empowered the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take “all measures” to cancel the vote.