Many Obstacles to Kurdistan Independence Referendum

By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Kurdistan faces many Obstacles to Independence Referendum

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced May 24 that it had formally informed the United Nations Security Council of its intention to hold a referendum on the independence of Kurdistan through the UN special representative to Iraq, Jan Kubis.

The KRG is working on three levels to have this referendum held by the end of this year and make the Kurdish parties attain their goal. While the first level consists of solving the internal crises plaguing the various Kurdish parties, the second one consists of starting negotiations with Baghdad to secure “a smooth and peaceful independence.” The third level consists of reassuring the regional powers that independence will by no means damage the interconnected relations in the region.

On April 13, the KRG had announced that the referendum will be held in the fall and revealed the formation of delegations of the two main parties in Kurdistan, namely the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), to negotiate the matter with Baghdad, Iran and Turkey.

The domestic crisis in the Kurdistan Region started in 2015 with the end of President Massoud Barzani's term, the disruption of the Kurdish parliament and the expulsion from Erbil of Yousif Mohammed, the speaker of the Kurdistan parliament and a leader in the Kurdish Movement for Change.

Asked about the negotiations aimed at solving this crisis, KDP member Sirwan Ismail told Al-Monitor that his party was responsive to the PUK proposals to solve the internal problems in Kurdistan, which will not hinder the holding of the referendum, because this referendum reflects the aspirations of all the Kurdish parties. As for the Movement for Change, which opposed taking part in the committee organizing the referendum, he said, "It is a small political formation whose position will not affect the Kurdish consensus.”

He said, “We believe that the referendum will be held under any circumstances, although we do not want it to be carried out without Baghdad’s approval. This is what we explained to the central government, which has yet to express a clear stance in this regard."

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