ERBIL — Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani reaffirmed that there is no turning back on the independence referendum scheduled for September 25th and they will start negotiations with Baghdad over the secession after the vote takes place.
"This is the first step. This is the first time in history that people in Kurdistan will freely decide their future," Barzani told the BBC.
"After that we will start the talks with Baghdad, to reach an agreement over borders, water and oil," he said.
Regarding the fears voiced by some parties that Kurdistan’s independence may bring instability to Iraq, Barzani said that such excesses are only to stop the Kurds from pursuing this right.
"When have we ever had stability and security in this region that we should be concerned about losing it? When was Iraq so united that we should be worried about breaking its unity? Those who are saying these, they are just looking for excuses to stop us,” Barzani explained.
Barzani also dismissed the criticism of decision to hold the referendum in Kirkuk.
"We don't say that Kirkuk only belongs to Kurds," he said. "Kirkuk should be a symbol of coexistence for all ethnicities. If the people of Kirkuk vote 'No' in this referendum we will respect their vote... but we don't accept that anyone can prevent us from holding a referendum there.”
“We don’t want war,” he said. However, he warned that "if any group wants to change the reality of Kirkuk using force, they should expect that every single Kurd will be ready to fight over it".
The independence vote of Kurdistan Region will take place on September 25 in the three provinces of the region - Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah - as well as Kurdistani areas outside the region's official borders, including Kirkuk, Makhmour, Khanaqin and Sinjar.