Falah Mustafa, head of Kurdistan Region’s foreign office, with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in New York on Monday. Photo: Falah Mustafa twitter
NEW YORK, United States – Turkey, France, and the United Nations are working to present an alternative to the Kurdistan independence referendum that will offer “guarantees” that the US-backed alternative failed to present, the head of Kurdistan’s foreign office told Rudaw following his meeting with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday.
Speaking in New York, Falah Mustafa said that it is important for the international community to realize that the September 25 referendum “is the beginning of a process, and not the end of it,” while stressing the Kurdistan Region will not immediately declare independence.
He said that Turkey repeated their long-held opposition to holding the vote at this time, but added Turkey, France, and the United Nations are working on a diplomatic level to come up with an alternative.
A US-backed alternative provided to Kurdistan last week by the US, UK, and the UN has failed to sway Erbil’s determination to proceed with the referendum with the goal of statehood.
The Kurdistan leadership has said they will not postpone the referendum without commitment from Baghdad to begin independence negotiations, with international guarantees that agreements will be enforced.
“Turkey and other countries, France and as well as the United Nations, are working to figure out what are the issues or the guarantees the Kurdish leadership demand,” Mustafa said.
Turkey, France, and the UN have all said they are opposed to holding the referendum on September 25, citing fears the vote will negatively affect the ongoing war against ISIS. The Kurdish leadership has said the vote will in no way affect their cooperation with the US-led Global Coalition. Barzani has vowed to keep the current “harmony” between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.
Turkey in particular has said the territorial integrity of Iraq should be preserved. This was stressed in a recent phone call between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Asked whether the decision to hold the referendum is final, Mustafa said they have called on the international community since day one and they will accept a stronger alternative to the referendum that can best achieve the Kurdish right to an independent state. They are still open to receive such a guarantee, he said, but added they have not yet received a viable alternative.
Mustafa said the vote will go ahead as planned, followed by talks with Baghdad.
“The Kurdistan Region is very clear about its stance... we want to hold [this vote on] this day so that the leadership of Kurdistan will head to Baghdad to open serious talks and negotiations on future relations and implementing this decision,” taken on September 25, Mustafa said.
“So September 26 does not mean declaring independence. On September 26 the second stage begins, a stage to implement that issue,” he continued, adding that the stage that comes after the vote is “the beginning of the process, not the end of it.”
The Iraqi Supreme Court issued a temporary ruling on Monday to suspend the referendum. Mustafa, however, told the Wall Street Journal that the vote will go ahead as the judiciary in Iraq has failed to respect the rule of law.
Mustafa told Rudaw that Iraq has failed to bring about true partnership between its people because it did not respect the Iraqi constitutions. He said Baghdad has become interested only in the last two weeks, after failing to implement the constitution since it came into effect in 2005.
Baghdad considers the referendum unconstitutional. The Kurdistan government, however, claims the central government has violated at least 55 articles of the constitution, including Article 140 that was supposed to determine the fate of the Kurdistani or disputed areas such as the oil-rich province of Kirkuk by 2007.