Kurdish President Masoud Barzani earlier this month declined a request from the United States to postpone the independence referendum set for September 25. He told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that they failed to provide an alternative. File photo: Rudaw
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A member of the Kurdistan referendum delegation visiting Baghdad denied that they have taken a soft line regarding its date, adding that they stick to the decisions made by the leadership in Kurdistan that also includes holding the vote on September 25.
Saadi Ahmad Pira denied media reports that they are prepared to postpone the vote if Baghdad agrees to set a date sometime next year under the supervision of the international community, including the United States.
“As of yet, we have not seen anything that can be an alternative to the referendum,” Pira told reporters in Baghdad on Thursday.
“What we are doing now is a sound negotiation with parties within the framework of the decisions made by the High Referendum Council and the [Kurdistani] parties. We strictly adhere to the principles that pushed us to hold the referendum,” he added.
The Referendum Council that is headed by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has set September 25 for the vote in the Kurdistan Region and the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed both by Erbil and Baghdad.
The guarantee should come “in writing” and be observed by the United Nations and the United States, the source explained.
The source said the delegation showed a softer line since the Iraqi ruling Shiite National Alliance, which includes Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Dawa party, expressed their willingness to solve all outstanding issues that pushed Erbil to call the referendum.
The delegation is expected to meet once again this weekend with the National Alliance and resume negotiations, remaining in the Iraqi capital until Monday.
Each side is preparing their stances between now and the meeting later this week, the source said, also confirmed by Romio Hakari, another member of the delegation, adding that Baghdad should also agree to implement a number of articles of the Iraqi constitution which the Kurdistan Region say have been violated by Baghdad, chief among them Article 140 and the budget cut.
Hakari, who is a Christian member of the delegation, told Rudaw on Thursday that the Alliance promised to solve all outstanding issues between the two governments. He said they will set a "timeline" for Iraq to take steps towards solving the problems within a very short time.
The decision to postpone the vote lies with the High Referendum Council back in Erbil, Hakari said.
Pira, of the delegation, continued to say that the referendum is the “only legal way to reach independence. What we aim for is not secession, but independence.”
Erbil has prepared a lengthy report that it claims proves Iraq violated about 50 articles of the Iraqi constitution.
They have met with Iraqi and foreign officials in the Iraqi capital, including with members of the Shiite Alliance, separately.
PM Abadi, VP Maliki, and Iraq’s parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, among others, have said that any step taken by the Kurdistan Region, including the referendum, should have constitutional backing.
Baghdad calls the referendum unconstitutional, unilateral, and has said it will not recognize the results.
Erbil had so far refused to postpone the referendum, despite calls from Baghdad and neighbours such as Turkey and Iran. It even turned down a request from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he made a phone call with the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani earlier this month.
Barzani told Tillerson that the United States failed to provide an alternative to the September referendum.