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President Masoud Barzani says he will resign if people vote against independence

By Rudaw 30/8/2017
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President Masoud Barzani says he will resign if people vote against independence
President Masoud Barzani delivers a speech in Erbil as he addressed academics and university professors with regard to the Kurdish independence vote on August 30, 2017. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish President Masoud Barzani has said that he will resign from his post if the people of Kurdistan vote ‘No’ in the September 25 independence referendum. He however said that he is expecting a high ‘Yes’ vote.

Barzani also said Erbil might be ready to consider postponing the referendum up to late 2018 if there was a guarantee approved by Baghdad and observed by the United States or the United Nations. 

Asked by the Saudi-funded Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper what he would do if the people voted against referendum, Barzani said he will respect the verdict.  

“I have fulfilled my duty for my people, and if the people refused independence, I will respect the will of my people and I will devote myself to my private life,” said Barzani in the interview published on Tuesday.

He had earlier said that he and nor any member of his family will stand in the presidential election scheduled for November regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

“I will respect the will of the people, and I will have no further responsibility,” he added.

When asked whether it means he will resign, Barzani responded “Without a doubt. If the people say ‘No,’ it does not leave any space for me to stay in my role.”

President Barzani however told the Arabic newspaper that he believes the people in Kurdistan are enthusiastic about the vote, and that they will come out in big numbers in support of independence.

He referred to one rally staged in the German city of Cologne last week where an estimated 20,000 Kurds and others flying the flags of Kurdistan gathered to express their support for independence, some of whom originated from other parts of Kurdistan, such as Syria and Turkey. 

He said the rally proved that the Kurdistani people are united on the issue of independence.

The Kurdish President however did not rule out a no-vote, saying that anything is possible. 

The majority of parties in Kurdistan, including Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, decided to hold an independence referendum on September 25, something Baghdad calls unilateral, unconstitutional and it does not recognize its results. 

Neighbouring countries, especially Iran and Turkey who have their own Kurdish population have voiced their opposition to the vote.

The United States that has backed Erbil against the ISIS group since 2014 also say they are against the timing of the vote that will also include the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by Erbil and Baghdad such as the multi-ethnic and oil rich province of Kirkuk.

President Barzani said that those who say they are against the timing of the vote sometimes talk about delaying the vote by six months or a year.

Postponing the vote to a later date, Barzani said, might be discussed if guaranteed. 

“Is there a willingness to sign a document that for example on September 25, 2018 to recognize the referendum and accept its results, if the outcome was in support of independence?” Barzani asked rhetorically. “Such an alternative may be considered if offered,” he continued. 

Barzani said earlier this month that they will not postpone the referendum in return for political or financial concessions from Baghdad, ruling out anything the central government could offer the Kurdistan Region. But, he said, the international community could offer such a guarantee.

“There is one possibility: If the United States, the European Union, the Security Council, or the United Nations come and give an official guarantee to the people of Kurdistan, it is possible to discuss that. But if tomorrow an ambassador in Baghdad – a statement from an ambassador is worth nothing, because I myself have experience with it,” Barzani said, addressing civil society organizations on August 21. 

“There is no alternative for the referendum now,” Barzani said at the time, adding that the vote will go ahead as scheduled.

He then said the guarantee should be a “great” one.

“If there is a great international guarantee, the political leadership of Kurdistan can then possibly tell the people that this is a more guaranteed [way]. But even that may be refused.”
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