DUSSELDORF, Germany – The leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, said that the people of Kurdistan have the right to hold the referendum on independence since they have endured a lot of hardships in Iraq. He added, however, he hopes there is room left for Iraq to stay united.
Schulz is a candidate for German Chancellor, running against the incumbent Angela Merkel.
The former President of the European Parliament, Schulz, was asked by a Rudaw correspondent on Thursday about the independence referendum in Kurdistan that is set to take place on September 25
“From the German point of view, it is bound to internal Iraqi affairs which are necessary to be discussed with Baghdad,” Schulz replied.
Kurdish leaders have cited the failures of governments in Baghdad to protect Kurds over the past century, including the current system.
“I was aware of the past history, but I hope that the opportunity avails for territorial integrity of Iraq to be preserved... But at the same time, I find the referendum as the just right of the Kurds in Iraq, because they have endured a lot of struggles in that country,” Schulz added as he took part in a election rally in Düsseldorf.
The new German Ambassador to Iraq Cyril Nann visited Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Thursday in Erbil.
A statement from the Kurdish presidency read that the Ambassador had expressed the concerns of his country about the timing of the referendum.
Barzani told Nann that the vote will take place as scheduled.
In June, following the announcement that the Kurdistan region will hold an independence referendum, Germany warned that it could cause instability.
“Redrawing the lines of the state is not the right way and could exacerbate an already difficult and unstable situation, in Erbil as well as Baghdad,” Germany Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said at the time.
Latest polls show that Schulz's party may win about 24 percent of the votes in the federal election that will take place on September 24, one day before the referendum in Kurdistan.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) is projected to collect about 40 percent of the votes.
The election is to elect a new federal parliament called Bundestag that will then elect the next chancellor and establish the next government.
Officials from Kurdistan Region and Iraq are on opposite sides on the issue of the referendum with both accusing the other of violating the Iraqi constitution.