Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk, speaking for the anti-ISIS Coalition, warned Iraqi Kurds against holding a plebiscite on independence. The referendum is currently scheduled to take place on September 25 and is widely expected to pass.
“I spoke about this in Baghdad last week. I saw Prime Minister Abadi, I saw President Barzani, we consulted with everybody,” the American representative said. “We do not think the referendum should happen in September.”
“We think that under the Iraqi constitution there is an important process of dialogue that has to take place. And having a referendum on such a fast timeline, particularly in disputed areas, would be, we think, significantly destabilizing,” McGurk explained.
“I think the delegation that came from Baghdad to Erbil yesterday to talk about some of these very difficult issues is a positive sign,” the anti-ISIS envoy continued. “That’s the type of dialogue I think we need to see.”
McGurk was referring to a ministerial delegation which traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan last week; they came to discuss a range of issues, including oil, electricity and financial instruments.
The US official said that many battles still needed to be won and expressed his belief that the referendum could disrupt the broader campaign to eliminate the would-be Caliphate. “Right now ISIS is not finished. We have to be very clear about that. They’re in Tal Afar, just south of the Kurdistan region. They’re in Hawija, just south of Kirkuk.”
McGurk pointed to the looming operation in Hawija to emphasize his concern, describing it as “very, very complex.” He added that the ongoing campaign would involve both the Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the wider Coalition, working in concert.
“So this is not the time to hold a referendum in these areas, and I think we’ve made that very clear,” the Presidential Envoy continued. “Right now, I think there’s an ongoing dialogue process.”
McGurk’s statement largely echoed one he gave last week, to a press conference in Baghdad. At the time, he also expressed his adamant opposition to the referendum.
“On the referendum, I think we’ve made our opposition to holding this referendum on September 25 quite clear,” the Coalition envoy then said. “We’ve called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to reconsider that decision.”
“All eyes right must remain fixed on the enemy –Da’esh– which is not defeated,” he reemphasized. “Anything that would distract from completing this mission is something that we will not support.”
However, Hemin Hawrami, who serves as a senior assistant to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, recently stated that there would never be a ‘perfect’ time for Iraqi Kurdistan to work towards its sovereignty.
“For those who say that it is not good timing for our referendum, they don’t say when is good timing. There is no ideal timing,” Hawrami said. “No one in the regional and international community has stated that they are against the natural right of self-determination for Kurdistan.”
Referring obliquely to Sykes–Picot Agreement, which partitioned Kurdish territories, Hawrami reminded the international community that “times had changed” and that the Kurds could no longer be “wiped out or ignored.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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