KRG president: Independence vote will come
Despite ongoing tumult with Daesh, Kurds in Iraq's northern semi-autonomous region will vote on independence, its president said Wednesday.
"Right now our country is in a fight against ISIS, the fight is not over, but that's why the issue of referendum has been delayed," Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani insisted in public remarks translated from Kurdish. "Of course the referendum will take place."
The potential vote to break away from Iraq has elicited strong condemnation from Baghdad's central government that challenges the region's authority to hold such a referendum.
But Barzani maintains that little is in doubt as to the eventual status of the Kurdish region.
"I cannot portend whether it will be next year or when, but certainly the independent Kurdistan is coming," he said.
At stake for Baghdad is the region's burgeoning oil supply, and the possibility that an independent Kurdish region could lead other ethnic groups to follow suit.
Moreover, Kurdish peshmerga forces have been instrumental in many of Baghdad's successes in the ongoing effort to push Daesh out of the roughly one-third of the country under the militant's control.
And they are likely to play a critical role in a highly anticipated offensive to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, which has been under Daesh control since government forces withdrew last June.
"So long as the terrorists of ISIS are in Mosul, they will be a direct threat to the Kurdistan region," Barzani said, adding that they will also be a threat to the whole of Iraq and the region. "We will do whatever we can in order to help liberate Mosul."
Regarding Turkey's ongoing efforts to broker a peace accord with Kurdish rebels in the country, Barzani said that the solution process is "an important part" of Erbil's relationship with Ankara.
"We hope that a peaceful solution would be found for the Kurdish question in Turkey," he said.