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Tillerson suggests Kurds postpone referendum, Kurdish president not convinced

By Rudaw 11/8/2017
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Tillerson suggests Kurds postpone referendum, Kurdish president not convinced
Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State of the United States and Kurdish President Masoud Barzani. Composite photo: Rudaw/AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has asked the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani to postpone the planned September referendum, but Barzani is not convinced there is an “alternative” to the referendum at this stage, said a statement from the Kurdish Presidency.

Tillerson and Barzani spoke by telephone Thursday evening and they discussed bilateral relations and the war against ISIS.

“The US Secretary of State...also stated he would rather see the referendum in Kurdistan to be postponed, and he reiterated his support for dialogue and negotiation between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad,” the statement read.

Barzani blamed Baghdad for pushing Kurdistan onto a path of self-determination. 

“On the issue of postponing the referendum President Barzani said to the US Secretary of State that the kind of coexistence that the Kurdistan Region had worked for with the state of Iraq in the past and over various stages was not implemented, and that is why the people of Kurdistan have decided to take their own path,” the statement continued.

The US and others have failed to provide guarantees that the people of Kurdistan would be able to practice their right to self-determination.

Barzani had asked “what kind of guarantees and alternatives are there for the future of Kurdistan?” 

The statement  added that the US Secretary of State had praised the decision by Erbil to send over a high delegation to discuss the outstanding issues between the Kurdish government and Baghdad.

Tillerson “commended President Barzani and the leadership of Kurdistan for the decision to form and send Kurdistan’s high delegation to Baghdad in order to negotiate the political issues,” it added.

The Kurdish delegation is expected to visit Baghdad early next week, with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying that he would welcome the delegation.

President Barzani emphasized on his part that the Kurdistan delegation will soon visit Baghdad “to negotiate those issues that are related to the future relations between Kurdistan and Baghdad,”

The US State Department has not released a readout of the phone call.

Last week, the US Consulate in Erbil released a readout of a call that it said was made between Barzani and Tillerson on August 4, but the statement was soon removed from their Facebook page as the Kurdish presidency denied the call had ever happened.

The controversial readout claimed that Tillerson stated his “opposition” to the referendum and conveyed continued US support for “a unified, federal, and democratic Iraq.”

Tillerson made a phone call to PM Abadi last week, urging both Erbil and Baghdad to engage in dialogue. 
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