Vote to go ahead: Barzani aide says ‘we have the right to separate’

Author: SIRAJ WAHABFri, 2017-09-22 04:23ID: 1506094111579404100JEDDAH/IRBIL, Iraq: A top aide of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani stressed on Friday that the Kurds are within their rights to demand separation from Iraq.
Hours after Barzani made it clear that there would be no deferment or cancelation of the planned independence referendum on Sept. 25, Mohammed Haji Mahmoud, a well-known Kurdish Peshmerga commander and president of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, told Arab News: “Kurdistan is a federating unit of Iraq. Our constitution stipulates that if a federating unit is not happy in the union, it has the right to separate. We are doing exactly that.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Haji Mahmoud said Iraq’s government was neither following the constitution in letter, nor in spirit. “We are a separate nation. After the referendum is over, we will hold talks with Baghdad. That will be our next step. We are only doing what we have agreed upon in the past,” he told Arab News from Irbil, where he had come to attend a rally addressed by Barzani.
Responding to a question about the strong opposition to the referendum expressed by many Kurdish allies, Haji Mahmoud said: “Why have they been pressurizing us? We are only asking for our rights. We are asking for our freedom. That is all.”
Addressing the rally in Irbil, Barzani said: “The referendum is no longer in my hands, nor is it in those of the (political) parties — it is in your hands.
“We say that we are ready for serious open-minded dialogue with Baghdad, but after Sept. 25, because now it is too late.”
Iran and Turkey have vehemently opposed the referendum. Both have sizable Kurdish populations of their own and they fear that the vote in northern Iraq will stoke separatist aspirations at home.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking on television on Friday, said that the vote posed a threat to national security, adding that Ankara “will do what is necessary” to protect itself. He did not elaborate.
But Hoshyar Zebari, a senior adviser to Barzani, told Reuters: “This is the last 5 meters of the final sprint and we will be standing our ground.”
The Iraqi government has called the referendum unconstitutional.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council warned the referendum was “potentially destabilizing.”
The council urged “dialogue and compromise” to address differences between the Iraqi government and the regional authorities.
It added that the vote could weaken the military campaign against Daesh, “in which Kurdish forces have played a critical role.”
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia urged Barzani to cancel the referendum to avoid further “crises” in the region.
In areas disputed between Irbil and Baghdad, some have issued strong warnings against the vote.
Hadi Al-Ameri, head of the powerful Iran-backed Badr militia, last week vowed to defend the unity of Iraq, warning that the referendum could trigger partition and civil war.
And, according to AFP, Atef Annajar — an official from the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi Shiite militia in the town of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddine province — said he would not allow voting to take place.
“We’re ready for a fight to the death,” he said.
Main category: Middle-EastTags: Kurdish referendumKurdistanKurdsMasoud Barzanirelated_nodes: Kirkuk shaping up as flashpoint ahead of Kurdistan independence voteIsrael sees benefits in independent Kurdistan: ExpertsIraq’s Kurds in economic crisis ahead of independence vote

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