ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq has refused to accept a Kurdish independence referendum “now or in the future” as it contradicts the Iraqi constitution, and will divide and weaken the Iraqi state, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday.
He made the remarks after Kurdish President Masoud Barzani gave an ultimatum to the Iraqi government to come up with an internationally backed alternative to the referendum that would secure Kurdish rights to statehood; otherwise, the vote will go ahead as planned on Monday.
Abadi warned that changing the borders “by force” unilaterally amounts to opening “a door to blood,” but he also said that “the day where Iraqis are fighting one another will never come.”
Regarding the Kurdistan Region’s bid for independence, Abadi had said last week that if the Iraqi population is "threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.”
Kurdish leaders, including President Masoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani have said that they aim of the referendum is not to redraw borders, adding that the issue remains to be negotiated with Iraq following the vote. President Barzani however repeatedly said that they refuse to go back to the borders that separated the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces beforte the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the so-called Green Line
Abadi said that they have left the door for negotiation between his government and the Kurdistan Regional Government within the framework of the Iraqi constitution and a “unified Iraq.”
He said they have instructed the security forces to protect all citizens and that they “do not accept law be violated.” He added they protected Iraqis “everywhere” and will continue to do so.
While he called on Erbil to “cancel” Monday’s referendum, he ruled out that Iraq will ever accept a referendum on independence — now or at a later date.
“The Kurdistan referendum is rejected, be it now or in the future. It is against the constitution, and it divides and weakens the country,” PM Abadi said, according to his official facebook regarding his press conference with some reporters.
A statement published by PM Abadi's office also read that the current Iraqi constitution do not allow a "confideration" with Kurdistan either, saying that the Iraqi parliament have first to agree to amend the constitution, and then the Iraqi nation have to vote on such amendments in a referendum.
He said that all Iraqi institutions have called the vote “unconstitutional,” following a temporary rule by the Iraqi Supreme Court at his request that suspends the vote until the court makes a final ruling.
The Kurdistan Region has stated it does not respect the ruling by the Iraqi court, and called on the people to cast their votes on the scheduled date.
Kurdistan emphasizes that the Iraqi constitution allows Erbil to end the “free union” between the two governments because Baghdad has violated at least 55 articles of the Iraqi constitution, including cutting the regional government’s share of the Iraqi budget since early 2014, lack of defense budget for the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Article 140 that concerns the fate of the Kurdistani or disputed areas such as the oil-rich Kirkuk province.
PM Abadi demanded the Kurdish and Iraqi governments to perform another “miracle” by having more coordination and cooperation, just like the Iraqi and Kurdish forces did in the offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS.
“We told the Kurds that we all live in the same country, and do not accept the de facto policy,” Abadi explained about their previous talks with the Kurdish leaders.
Foreign countries and international bodies have expressed their willingness to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil to negotiate a solution for their outstanding issues including a US-backed alternative that was refused by the Kurdish leadership for failing to meet the Kurdish demands.
Abadi said that the talks between Baghdad and Erbil are not observed by the United Nations or any other country, and that these foreign missions are present in Iraq with the approval of the Iraqi state.