LODZ — Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has reiterated that he does not regret holding the independence referendum, calling it a successful process to which 3 million people voted “Yes”.
In an interview with the BBC, Barzani said that the current situation and political crises are not the result of the referendum, but rather Baghdad’s unconstitutional moves against the people of Kurdistan.
“What is happening now is the result of Baghdad cutting the budget of the people of Kurdistan Region in 2014. Also, the fight against IS [Islamic State], and the dramatic cut in the oil prices has costed us a lot. Remember, we also have around two million IDPs and refugees. That’s what caused the current situation and not the referendum,” Barzani said, questioning why it should be considered a failure.
Concerning the US and international community’s position on the referendum, the Kurdish leader said that they were concerned with the timing of the vote, but never came up with an alternative to the referendum that could ensure the future of the people of Kurdistan.
Commenting on the current situation in Kirkuk and other disputed Kurdish territories where the Iraqi army and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias are in control, Barzani said that what happened there was the result of a betrayal of a group within the Kurds themselves.
Asked who has betrayed them, Barzani answered, “The people of Kurdistan and the international community knows.”
However, the Kurdish leader was optimistic about a peaceful solution between Erbil and Baghdad over their disputes in Kirkuk and other Kurdish areas outside the current borders of Kurdistan Region. He said that the negotiations continue for now and that the Iraqi constitution may be the only solution to the differences.
Asked if he believes that the current situation in Kirkuk would constitute an occupation of the Kurdish territories by the Iraqi forces, Barzani said, “Yes, now it is occupied”.
“We have a just cause, and we will never ever give up upon it,” Barzani said about the Kurdish leadership’s determination to continue struggling for statehood.
In response to a question about his future path and plan or if he would ever run for presidency again, Barzani said he will respect the law and not run for the presidency.
“Once a Peshmerga, always a Peshmerga,” he pointed out.