Kurdish independence referendum 'definitely going ahead' in September, confirms Barzani

Kurdish independence referendum 'definitely going ahead' in September, confirms Barzani
The president of the autonomous region told a group of Kurdish academics the referendum was definitely going ahead despite pressure from his neighbours to postpone.
2 min read
24 August, 2017
A man sews a flag with the face of the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani [AFP]
The President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region confirmed that the independence referendum will continue on September 25, despite recent petitions against the idea from Turkey and the United States.

Massoud Barzani told a gathering of Kurdish academics on Thursday that the referendum was definitely going ahead as his faith in Baghdad had "weakened completely".

"Barzani said he doesn't want close relations with Baghdad because he doesn't trust them," said Hemin Mirkhan, director at the Centre for Regional and International Studies in Erbil.

An adviser to the deputy prime minister, Dara Khailany, also confirmed to The New Arab that the referendum will continue as normal.

Barzani's statements followed two official visits to Erbil in two days by the Turkish foreign minister and US defence secretary respectively.

The two ministers reportedly lobbied Barzani to delay the referendum, as "political effects of a vote for independence may cause disruptive effects for the region."

Barzani told Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, that he hoped Turkey and Kurdistan could become "two good neighbours" after the referendum.

Cavusoglu told reporters after the meeting that independence was "not a good idea," however adding that his country had not placed any conditions on Erbil.

Some political pundits believe that Ankara is actually supportive of an independent Kurdistan, as it recently signed a 50-year oil deal in the country.

The decision to hold the referendum on September 25 was taken after Barzani met with a group of the area's top political leaders from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) on June 7.

A spokesperson for the government has recently confirmed that the results of the vote would be "binding", meaning that the government would break away in the case of a majority "yes" vote.

One unnamed senior Kurdish official told The New Arab that Barzani had considered postponing the referendum after meeting with Cavusoglu – but this mood seemed to have disappeared on Thursday morning.

"The confidence of the [Kurdistan] region in the Baghdad government has weakened, but the desire to resolve the crises which caused this referendum has not," the official quoted Barzani.

Speaking at the "CWC Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas Conference" in London in December, Kurdistan's natural resources minister welcomed international investment, adding that "independence was certain."

"If Kurdistan is really not such a good place where [production costs] $2 a barrel, take your money elsewhere. I have no problem with that. I'm sure you can find opportunities elsewhere," said Ashti Hawrami.