It is now “too late” to postpone next Monday’s planned referendum on Kurdish regional independence, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani said Saturday.
Speaking at a “yes” rally in Erbil (the KRG’s administrative capital), Barzani said: “We are being pressured day and night to postpone the poll, but we won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
“We are open to holding serious dialogue [with Baghdad] after the poll, but now it’s too late to postpone the referendum,” he added.
Next week’s poll “isn’t about drawing new borders but about expressing the popular will”, Barzani said, adding that the KRG was still willing to negotiate with Baghdad over contentious issues such as oil export revenues and disputed territories.
Answering criticisms that the poll will distract from the fight against Daesh, he said Iraq’s ongoing fight against the terrorist group “will only accelerate in the post-referendum period”.
Next Monday’s referendum will see Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas — and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad — vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq.
Along with the Iraqi government, Turkey, the U.S., Iran, and the UN have all voiced their opposition to the planned poll. Baghdad has even threatened to intervene militarily in the event that the vote leads to violence.
Barzani, for his part, has said that a victory for the “yes” vote would not initiate an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.—Agencies