Al-Monitor: And do you have a date in mind?
Barzani: I think it will be before October [before the US elections in November].
Al-Monitor: It is universally agreed that in order for Kurdistan to sustain itself as independent, it needs the backing of at least one of the neighboring powers, Turkey or Iran. Over the past few years, we have seen Turkish policies change dramatically in your favor. Will Turkey support an independent Kurdish state carved out of Iraq?
Barzani: In the beginning, Turkey was against the federalism of Kurdistan, and look at our relations today. As long as the referendum is only for Iraqi Kurdistan, it has nothing to do with the Kurds in Turkey [there should be no problem]. So we do hope that Turkey understands and comprehends what Kurdistan is asking for. But at the same time we are talking to Baghdad, we will talk to Iran at the same time that we talk to Turkey. We want to do it in a peaceful and balanced way.
Al-Monitor: Do you believe that if you declare independence, the current government in Turkey will accept it?
Barzani: If the current Justice and Development Party [AKP] government does not recognize and accept an independent Kurdistan, I don't think any other government in Turkey would.
Al-Monitor: Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be president [of Turkey] until 2019. So you are saying something needs to happen between now and then?
Barzani: What do you mean something has to happen?
Al-Monitor: Well, independence ideally should happen during this time, correct?
Barzani: When Erdogan was prime minister, it was he who came to Erbil, and in Erbil said that the era of denying the Kurds was over. This was a very important development. I have met Erdogan many times, and I have seen that Erdogan has a better understanding of the Kurdish cause than most. What I heard from Erdogan, I heard from no one else.
Al-Monitor: But Turkey has a big problem with its own Kurds, and it is getting rapidly worse. It seems to me that unless Turkey fixes that problem, even if Turkey supports your independence, it won’t be on a sound foundation.
Barzani: We wish that the peace process had not stopped, and we have tried our best to keep the peace process going. I don’t want to go into details, but I think that,after the June 7, 2015, elections when they [the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP) got 80 seats in the parliament, we issued a statement saying that it would be a historic mistake if they were not going to be part of the coalition government [with the AKP]. And at that time, I thought that the [AKP] wasn't accepting HDP to be part of the coalition government, but later I heard from the people within HDP that it was they who didn't want to be part of the coalition. I think this was a big mistake.