Iraqi Kurdistan wants independence vote to be first step to talks with Baghdad – Minister

Iraq and Kurdistan region flags fly side by side.

Iraqi Kurdistan expresses hope that the independence referendum, scheduled for late September, will mark the beginning of a comprehensive dialogue with Baghdad, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Foreign Relations Department, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir told Sputnik Sunday.

“We want the referendum to become the first step to the launch of a serious and comprehensive dialogue … aimed at the independence of Erbil from Baghdad,” Mustafa said.

The minister noted that Kurdistan offered referendum as an option of peaceful solution to the internal problems of Iraq.

“This is why we want Baghdad to respect the will of the people of the region,” Mustafa stressed.

Kurdistan became an autonomous region in Iraq after former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown and a new constitution was adopted in 2005. Since then, Kurdistan’s authorities have repeatedly raised the issue of the region’s independence and announced on 7 June that the referendum will be held on 25 September. The decision was slammed by multiple Western states, including the United States, which regards the independence vote as a distraction from the war against the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

The relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad have worsened in the past years over multiple reasons, including views on local oil fields and the profits therefrom. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, who came to power in 2014, took the path of normalizing relations with the autonomous region and admitted its right for self-determination.