Kurdistan referendum team 'hopeful' after meeting with Iraqi PM

Kurdistan referendum team 'hopeful' after meeting with Iraqi PM
Delegates from Kurdistan said they are 'hopeful' after a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss the autonomous region's bid for independence ahead of a referendum next month.
2 min read
15 August, 2017
Iraq's Kurdish region is seeking independence from Baghdad in a referendum next month [Getty]
A delegation representing Kurdistan's upcoming independence referendum organisers said they held a "hopeful" meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday, ahead of September's controversial vote.

The delegation Erbil MPs arrived in Baghdad on Monday with six weeks to go until a vote on whether the Kurdish region should split from Iraq.

"We said to Haider al-Abadi that the Kurdistani nation has arrived at the belief to hold a referendum for independence, and this is because they are not certain of their future in Iraq. We are still concerned and fear that war will break out," Saadi Pira, a member of the delegation to Baghdad told Rudaw after the talks.

"The meeting was very hopeful. Abadi said that the Kurdistan Region has economic and political independence and the Peshmerga who have not carried the Iraqi flag," Pira added.

The prime minister's office confirmed Monday's meeting in a statement calling the dialogue "open and profound", adding that discussions were held about how to resolve outstanding problems.

The delegation - including members of Kurdish and minority parties and chief of staff to the Kurdish presidency, Fuad Hussein - is planning to hold several meetings this week with Iraqi officials, as well as at the UK and US embassies.

Washington has requested Erbil postpone the referendum, fearing the start of a fresh conflict, and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] and Baghdad to settle their differences through a national dialogue.

Constitution violated

The delegation has prepared a lengthy report detailing 50 articles of the Iraqi constitution that Erbil says have been violated by Baghdad.

Chief among these is Article 140, which concerns disputed areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, as well as a budget cut by Iraq since early 2014.

In late July, the KRG tasked ministries to prepare a dossier to request the Iraqi government to pay hundreds of billions of dollars of compensation, when Erbil and Baghdad sit down to negotiate Kurdistan's bid for independence.

The Kurdish election body announced on Monday it had officially ratified and approved the date for the independence referendum - 25 September.

The Kurds have been seeking an independent state since at least the end of the First World War, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East.

Their territories ended up split between modern-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Neighbours Syria, Turkey and Iran, who also have sizable Kurdish populations, are all opposed to an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq.