WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States says it appreciates the "legitimate aspirations" of the people in Iraqi Kurdistan, a day after officials in the Kurdistan Region set September 25 as the date to hold a referendum on independence.
"We support a unified, stable and a federal Iraq," said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. "We appreciate and understand the legitimate aspirations of the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan."
Nauert warned that the referendum could distract from the final defeat of ISIS.
"We have expressed our concerns to the authorities in the Kurdistan Region, but holding a referendum even a non-binding resolution at this time would distract from urgent priorities and that be the defeat of ISIS, the stabilization, the return of displaced people, managing of the region's economic crisis, and resolving the region's internal political disputes," she said.
The spokeswoman encouraged continued dialogue between Iraqi and Kurdistan Region officials.
"We would also encourage the regional authorities to engage with the government of Iraq on a full-range of important issues between the future of relations between Baghdad and Erbil," she said. "Our first and foremost task is, we believe as coalition partners, is to ensure the defeat of ISIS."
In April, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that now was not the time to hold a referendum.
“The desire of our Kurdish brothers to create a country of their own is their right given the desire and the objective and nobody has the right to deter them,” he said. “But holding a referendum at this time is not right as the ISIS war still rages, the region’s situation is not suitable and some neighboring countries believe this move poses a threat to the nation’s security themselves.”
On Wednesday in Erbil, high-ranking representatives of the political parties within the parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in attendance with the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, the president and deputy president of the Kurdistan High Electoral Commission, all convened with Mr. President Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region.
The meeting's attendants unanimously agreed to hold an independence referendum on September 25, 2017; work to reactivate to parliament; address the economic crisis of the people of Kurdistan, civil servants, other groups and the destitute people; and the formation of a referendum high council overseen by President Barzani with the deadline of June 12 for "political parties have to appoint their respective representatives."
The head of the Turkmen Front in the Kurdistan parliament told Rudaw that two seats had been reserved for Change Movement (Gorran) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal). They are the two parties which had turned down President Barzani’s request to attend the meeting, citing the inactivation of the parliament.