Kurdistan Region parties to discuss ‘practical steps’ on independence referendum

Leading Kurdish politicians in the Kurdistan Region (Photo: Rudaw)

Leaders from the two main parties of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq will meet on Sunday to discuss an independence referendum and recent turmoil following the hoisting of the Kurdistan region flag on government buildings in Kirkuk.

The leaders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (PKK) are to meet in Pirmam town near Erbil, Adnan Mufti, an official from the PUK told Rudaw.

The PUK had announced on Saturday that it was prepared to form a committee with other Kurdish parties to begin taking practical steps for secession from Baghdad.

In a statement the party said, “Independence is a democratic and natural right of the Kurdistan nation. A referendum to achieve independence, as the self-determination of the Kurdistan nation in the Region and other Kurdistani areas, is the main and longstanding objective of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.”

Talks between the parties come at a time of rising tensions in Kirkuk. A city largely administered by the KRG where the PUK holds key positions, but still contested by Baghdad.

Turkmen political parties in Kirkuk expressed their discontent with the Kirkuk Governorate’s decision to raise the flag of the Kurdistan region alongside the Iraqi federal flag on government buildings.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Twitter on Saturday that the city of Kirkuk was actually a Turkmen city.

Turkmen, Arabs and Assyrians make up almost half of Kirkuk’s 120,000 population while the other half is made up of Kurds.

Kirkuk and several other areas fall under Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution as “disputed territories” in which local residents choose which administration their areas should belong to. However referendums have not been held in any of the areas since 2003.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the KRG in northern Iraq will not be able to make a move towards independence even if a vote in favour of secession were to come out of an expected September referendum.

Turkey’s Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also weighed in on discussion telling reporters on Saturday that an independence referendum would be a “wrong step.”

“We do not think bringing this issue to the agenda is correct, at a time when there are several security risks at the highest levels,” Kalin added.

Kurdistan Region President and KDP chief Masoud Barzani on Thursday told the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres that Erbil would hold a referendum at the earliest possible time and asked the UN to be “understanding” in regards to Kurdish desires, NRT reported.