MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On June 7, Barzani announced his intention to hold a referendum on the independence of the autonomous region of Kurdistan from Iraq on September 25, a decision which has been criticized by Baghdad.
"The US Secretary of State… also stated he would rather see the referendum in Kurdistan to be postponed, and he reiterated his support for dialogue and negotiation between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad… On the issue of postponing the referendum President Barzani said to the US Secretary of State that the kind of coexistence that the Kurdistan Region had worked for with the state of Iraq in the past and over various stages was not implemented, and that is why the people of Kurdistan have decided to take their own path," the Kurdish Presidency said in a statement as quoted by Rudaw broadcaster.
Tillerson also praised the decision of Erbil to send a delegation to Baghdad to discuss the upcoming vote with the Iraqi leadership, according to the statement. However, no US State Department comment has been available so far.
The referendum is set to be held throughout Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as territories of the Nineveh, Kirkuk, Saladin and Diyala provinces claimed by both Kurdish Iraq and Baghdad.
Responding to the Kurdistan leadership's move, Iraqi government spokesman Saad Hadithi said that Baghdad would not back any unilateral steps taken by Iraqi Kurdistan aimed at gaining independence, as such moves would violate the country's constitution.
Both Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the US-led coalition against Daesh terrorist group, and US special presidential envoy Brett McGurk said that the Kurdish authorities should not hold the referendum amid the anti-Daesh campaign in Iraq as it would destabilize the Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting in the region.
The Kurds, making up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population, have been seeking self-governance for decades. In 2005, Iraq’s Constitution recognized Kurdistan as an autonomous region, run by the Kurdistan Regional Government.