Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Photo: PM Media Office
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Now is not the time for Kurdish independence, said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday. He also touched upon the question of raising Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk, deeming it “illegal.”
Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Abadi said the time is not ripe for a referendum, with ISIS on the doorstep, running parts of the country.
“I do not want to meddle in the desires and ambitions. There are people who have plenty of objectives and desires. Some have the desire to create a little state for themselves… The desire of our Kurdish brothers to create a country of their own is their right given the desire and the objective and nobody has the right to deter them. But holding a referendum at this time is not right as the ISIS war still rages, the region’s situation is not suitable and some neighboring countries believe this move poses a threat to the nation’s security themselves.”
“We have to be realistic otherwise we will lock in rivalry and problems with the Iraqi government and even other provinces of Iraq. On which basis will these problems be solved if you want to hold an independence referendum?” he asked.
Referring to comments by some Kurdish leaders who claimed holding a referendum does not mean the declaration of independence, Abadi said “Some say we will hold referendum, but we’re not going to implement it. Then what will you have to tell your people if you are to hold referendum and not implement it.”
He reiterated Baghdad’s message to Erbil that “we frankly say, it will not be in the interest of the Kurdistan Region to hold a referendum at this time. I, as the prime minister, have to take the interests of my citizens into consideration. In my opinion holding referendum is not in their interest, but will create a set of problems for them. Being in a hurry in this subject is equal to a withdrawal from all the victories that have been achieved in the past.”
He gave the short-lived Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan which lasted less than a year as an example of a failure in the Kurdish movement in the region. The time was not right for the Republic of Mahabad, leading to its collapse.
Abadi’s message to the Kurdistan Region was to not repeat the same experience.
He reiterated that “I am speaking frankly through the media. I am not against the objectives. Everyone and a group of human beings have the right to fulfill their dreams. But holding it at this time is not in the interest of the Kurds, but against their interests.”
In parts of his speech on the question of referendum and independence, Abadi said he sees this move being taken by the Kurds as part of political rivalries.
“It is clear and many of the Kurdish politicians share the same view saying they cannot implement it and will not implement it… This is part of the political rivalries.”
Commenting on the controversial flag issue in Kirkuk, Abadi said “Too much attention has been paid to the raising of the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk. A solution to this subject has to be found. Our words with regards to this matter are clear. According to law, they do not have the right to hoist flags on the governmental buildings. Also, according to law, the Kirkuk governmental institutions are associated with Iraq and the Iraqi government raises only the Iraqi flag.”
Explaining a suggestion he sent to the Kurdistan Region authorities through a joint Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) delegation who visited Baghdad earlier this month, Abadi said “I suggested to them to take down the flags on the governmental buildings and put them on the political parties’ buildings instead. Then it becomes another subject, which I, as the prime minister, will not get involved in.”
On the same question, he pointed out, “I talked to many politicians on the issue of the Kurdistan flag who were against it. But now they have done the job and cannot stand against it, believing that it is political rhetoric.”