Kurdish Resident Masoud Barzani addresses a rally for independence of Kurdistan in Soran on September 19, 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
SORAN, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani gave Baghdad three days to reach an agreement with Erbil, backed by the international community, providing an alternative to the referendum that will eventually lead to “independence.”
Speaking at a rally for independence in Soran on Tuesday, Barzani said their problem is not with the international community, which has offered to mediate between the regional and central governments, but “We have to reach an agreement with Baghdad.”
What can take the place of the referendum is “a bilateral agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, if the agreement materialized in a way that could take the place of the referendum. And then the international community, the US, Europe, backs that agreement and give guarantees that this agreement will be implemented,” said Barzani.
“But I will be honest with you, Baghdad has not reached that level yet,” he added, giving the central government a deadline of “two to three days” to reach such an agreement.
If no viable alternative is offered, “it is impossible to postpone the referendum,” Barzani said.
He stressed that the purpose of the September 25 referendum “is to tell the world that we want independence.” So any alternative must achieve the same objective.
He said that if Baghdad agrees to provide an alternative, then the people of Kurdistan will “hold a celebration on September 25.”
The Iraqi Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday to suspend the referendum at the request of the Iraqi prime minister who asked the court to rule as “unconstitutional” the separation of “any region or province.”
Barzani said the Iraqi constitution, in its preface, stipulates that full commitment to the constitution preserves “free union.” Since Baghdad has failed in this point, the constitution gives Erbil the right to hold the vote, Barzani argued.
He said the reason behind increased global and regional calls to postpone the vote is because everyone thought at the beginning that the Kurdistan Region was using the vote simply as a “pressure card” against Baghdad. He said that thanks to the referendum, the issue is now “top of the agenda” for the international community.
The international community has presented offers to persuade Erbil to postpone the vote, Barzani said. But Kurdistan’s problem is with Baghdad and it is Baghdad that must commit to an agreement, not the international community, he stressed.
Falah Mustafa, the head of the government’s Department for Foreign Affairs, told Rudaw Monday that Turkey, France, and the UN are working on a joint alternative in order to convince the Kurdistan Region to postpone the vote. He stressed that they had not yet received a convincing alternative.
Addressing thousands at the rally, most waving Kurdistan flags, Barzani called on referendum supporters to raise only the flag of Kurdistan and not those of individual political parties, including his own ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).