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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Kurdish president vows no delay on independence vote

Referendum on Kurdish independence is scheduled for September 25 

Kurdistan Regional Government president Masoud Barzani vowed "no delay on the independence referendum on Kurdish independence" on August 22, 2017. Azad Lashkari / Reuters
Kurdistan Regional Government president Masoud Barzani vowed "no delay on the independence referendum on Kurdish independence" on August 22, 2017. Azad Lashkari / Reuters

The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, vowed there would no postponement of the much-contested independence referendum.

“It is not a crime to practice our natural right to hold a referendum, in pursuit of self-determination,” Mr Barzani said during a meeting on Tuesday with ethnic and religious groups in Erbil.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) intends to hold an independence referendum on September 25, a decision that senior Kurdish officials say there is no reversing.

“We want a future independent Kurdistan to be a system of federalism with the creation of new provinces where ethnic and religious groups will be guaranteed their rights,” Mr Barzani said. All would be guaranteed their rights under the constitution, he stressed.

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Read more:

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The Kurdish president also indicated that if Kurds voted "yes" in the independence vote, “We might review the national anthem and redesign the flag to reflect the diverse reality of Kurdistan”.

Meanwhile, Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan region’s security council, said: “Our neighbours must recognize that Kurdistan isn't a threat. We've proven so over the last two decades, focusing instead on economic trade."

"This vote is for the people of Kurdistan, including religious groups and nationalities. In an independent Kurdistan their rights will be protected,” Mr Barzani added.

The United States has strongly opposed the planned independence referendum and believes it could undermine Iraqi prime minister Haidar Al Abadi and distract from the fight against ISIL.

"A referendum at this time would be potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign," said Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition. "It's not just the United States, every member of our coalition believes that now is not the time to hold this referendum."

President Barzani said an independent Kurdish state would prevent further bloodshed between Erbil and Baghdad and would allow future generations to live in peace as neighbours. “We have been waiting for 100 years. How long shall we wait for an ‘appropriate time’?”

He emphasised Erbil’s commitment to dialogue with Baghdad, but reiterated the referendum would not be postponed.

"The people of the Kurdistan Region have the right to decide whether they want to remain as part of Iraq or secede from the rest of the country," he said.

Meanwhile, a delegation representing Iraqi's ruling Shiite coalition has indicated it might meet with the Kurdish independence delegation next week in the hope of delaying or cancelling the referendum.

The Kurdish delegation met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad last week, with Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi and other political parties.