President Masoud Barzani welcomes British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon on Monday. Photo: KRP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Amid numerous calls to postpone next week’s independence referendum and focus on discussions with Baghdad, President Masoud Barzani told a visiting British minister that they will not postpone the referendum without commitment from Baghdad to begin independence negotiations, with international guarantees that agreements will be enforced.
British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon called on Barzani to delay the September 25 independence referendum and focus on dialogue with the central government “under the supervision of the international community,” read a Kurdish-language statement from the presidency’s office.
Fallon visited Kurdistan on Monday with UK Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker and met with Barzani, Vice President Kosrat Rasul, and acting Peshmerga Minister Karim Sinjari.
Responding to Fallon’s request, Barzani said that referendum and dialogue are both tools for independence and that, since no alternative had been presented that could guarantee independence talks and Baghdad’s readiness to commence such talks, the referendum cannot be delayed.
“[T]he referendum will not be delayed only for the sake of holding talks with Baghdad without knowing the content of these talks or knowing what international guarantees they will have,” the Kurdish statement read.
He added, however, that if Baghdad “expresses its readiness to hold talks on Kurdistan’s independence for a specific period of time and if there are international guarantees for the enforcement of an agreement on Kurdistan’s independence” then Kurdistan’s political leadership would meet and make a final decision.
After the referendum, the Kurdistan Region will “happily negotiate with Baghdad” he said, according to an English-language statement from the presidency’s office.
Fallon was in Baghdad earlier in the day, meeting with Iraqi officials. In a press conference afterwards, he called the Kurdistan referendum “a mistake” and said the UK is “committed to the integrity of Iraq,” AFP reported.