x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

Kurdish referendum delegation to meet with Iraq PM in Baghdad

The September 25 vote on Kurdish independence is strongly opposed by the central Iraqi government

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

A Kurdish delegation will meet with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Monday to discuss the highly controversial referendum on Kurdish independence due to take place on September 25.

It comes after the Referendum High Council, headed by the Kurdistan region's president Masoud Barzani, met in Erbil on Saturday and agreed to send a delegation to the Iraqi capital to negotiate details of the upcoming vote.

The delegation will meet with Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi among other officials.

“In our meetings, we will speak frankly with Baghdad and explain that the Kurdistan region has decided to hold the referendum on independence and there is no turning back on that,” said Majid Osman, a member of the delegation representing the Kurkish region's Turkmen population.

The referendum, however, is strongly opposed by the central Iraqi government.

Read more: Iraq Kurds campaigning for 'no' to independence face uphill struggle

“The relationship between Baghdad and Erbil is determined by the Iraqi constitution and the Kurds cannot act unilaterally,” government spokesperson Saad Al Hadithi said in June after the referendum was announced by Mr Barzani on Twitter.

“Any decision that concerns the future of Iraq must take into consideration the Iraqi constitution as it is an Iraqi decision."

Meanwhile, Mr Barzani faces yet another challenge. The second largest party in the Kurdish regional parliament, the popular Gorran (Change) Movement, on Saturday said the referendum was "illegal" and called for its postponement until the “right time and conditions emerge”.

“The declaration and the foundation of the independent state of Kurdistan is the objective of all the people of Kurdistan and [the] Gorran Movement ... but the decision to hold the referendum on September 25, 2017 was made without legal, proper political and economic, security and social preparations, especially the issue of the Kurdistani areas (disputed areas)," the movement said, referring to a lack of agreement over where the boundary lines for an independent Kurdish state should be drawn.

The statement added that any referendum should be called by the Kurdish parliament, rather than by the government.

The referendum is also opposed by key international supporters of the Iraqi Kurdish region, including Turkey, Iran, Germany and, to a lesser extent, the United States.

They are fearful of the implications that a vote in favour of Kurdish independence could have on stability in the Middle East at a time when regional rivalries are already at their height.

In June, the US state department said it was concerned that the referendum will distract from "more urgent priorities" such as the defeat of ISIL, Reuters reported.