Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani addressing independence referenudm supporters during a rally at Duhok stadium. Photo: Rudaw
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – President Masoud Barzani has said that it is surprising to him that Kurdistan’s neighbors have become interested in the protection of the unity of Iraq, also adding that Erbil does not seek any problems with its neighbors.
Turkey and Iran who each have a significant Kurdish population in their countries have opposed the Kurdish referendum, with Ankara saying that they will officially announce their stance on September 22, just 3 days before the vote. Both countries have asked Erbil to call off the vote.
“With regard to our neighbors, we want to have the best relations. We don’t want for any problem to occur between us and our neighbors,” Barzani told a rally in the province of Duhok on Saturday evening.
“It has been 25 years that we have proved that we are a factor for peace, prosperity, and coexistence. We are not a threat to anyone,” the Kurdish president continued.
“But one thing that is surprising to me is: I wish I knew since when have you become so worried about the territorial integrity of Iraq, the sovereignty of Iraq, and the constitution of Iraq?" Barzani asked rhetorically. "This is important to me since these days these [things] have become important to our neighbors."
Barzani in parts of his speech said that if the Iraqi constitution was committed to and partnerships were implemented, the decision to hold the referendum would not have been made but “the constitution was violated and put under their feet.”
“They refused to accept the partnership, not us,” he added.
Barzani described the Iraqi government’s decision in early 2014, during Nouri al-Maliki’s reign as prime minister to cut off the Kurdistan Region’s budget as “another Anfal.”
Commenting on calls to postpone the referendum to a later time by world countries, Barzani explained, as he has done on several other occasions that “the decision is not of a person, a [political] party, two parties or three parties, but that of the people of Kurdistan.”
Barzani said the only party who legitimizes the independence referendum is the people of Kurdistan.
It comes after the latest meeting Barzani held with world’s powerful countries in Duhok, including the US, UK and UN officials, Brett MckGurk US Special Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition from Erbil said that the United States believes that the referendum lacks “international legitimacy” and they do not view their objection to the vote conflicting with the values of democracy an international law.
UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General Jan Kubis, UK Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker, US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, and US Consulate General to Erbil Ken Gross were also among those who attended the meeting.
Barzani went on to address the independence supporters adding the pretext of parties rejecting a referendum at this time was that it did not have a mandate from the parliament, but now that the pretext is over as the parliament convened and approved the holding of the referendum on September 25.
After almost two years, the Kurdistan parliament convened on Friday evening and approved holding referendum on September 25, with the Change Movement (Gorran) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) boycotted.
He strongly criticized recent decisions the Iraqi parliament made against the Kurdistan Region, saying it is being run by “chauvinists.”
The Iraqi parliament last week rejected holding the referendum by Erbil and voted to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim from his post.
Pointing at the thousands of people at the rally, Barzani said the “will of these people” is stronger that any “weapon” and that they will not accept “oppression.”
He added that the Kurdistan Region’s friends have praised the role of the Peshmerga, but “we want them to respect the will of our people,” too.
He once again ensured the rights of minority groups living alongside the Kurds in the Kurdistan Region, saying “any guarantees they ask, we are ready to provide.”
He said the people of the Kurdistan Region have friendly relations with the nations of Iraq and “our problem is with authorities in Iraq.”
He said the decision to hold the referendum was crucial because there were “plots” by Baghdad to ruin “our achievements.”
Last updated at 7:20 p.m