ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish presidency has said
that Turkey asked the Kurdistan Region to change the question to be asked at
the scheduled referendum on independence on September 25, that they
“understand” and “deal with” the United States stance over the referendum which
calls for the preservation of the unity of Iraq, and that they would ask the
United Nations to “monitor” the referendum that includes the Iraqi Kurdistan,
including the disputed areas, claimed both by Erbil and Baghdad.
The Turkish foreign ministry described Wednesday’s decision
by the Kurdish government to hold the referendum as a “grave mistake” that
would cause subsequent “problems” in the region.
Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish
presidency, told Rudaw on Saturday that they want to emphasize to Turkey and
the neighbouring countries that the referendum “concerns solely the Iraqi Kurdistan,”
a reassuring message sent from Erbil that it would not seek to encourage the
Kurdish population in Turkey, Iran, and Syria to follow the same path.
He also said that the ruling Shiite National Alliance in
Iraq have already formed a seven-member committee to discuss the “future
relations between Erbil and Baghdad.”
Baghdad has said that they do not agree with what they call
a “unilateral” step by Erbil without asking the rest of the country over the
future of Iraq.
The following is an edited version of Rudaw’s interview with
Fuad Hussein on June 10, 2017:
Rudaw: I begin with this question. The Kurdistan Region President
has made a phone call to Iraqi Prime Minister [Haider al-Abadi]. What would the
Kurdistan Region want to discuss with Baghdad? And would you ask Baghdad to accept
the holding of the referendum?
Fuad Hussein: The phone call that was made yesterday. A range of issues
were discussed, one of them was about referendum.
What was the discussion? The president of Kurdistan Region …
Normally, like I said, Mosul was discussed, the war in Mosul
and the end of the Mosul war, the fight against ISIS, and in addition to
a negotiation committee has been formed by the National Alliance [in Baghdad]
the situation that has developed in Kurdistan. It was an exchange of views. And
the discussions in fact were very positive by both sides. The two sides discussed
that they will keep in touch and to be able to continue these negotiations for
the problems that are existent now to be solved.
The Kurdistan Region has said that the first party we would
enter negotiations with is Baghdad. How would you discuss this subject with
Baghdad? What is that you want to agree on with Baghdad?
It is wrong to say that it has not been discussed with
Baghdad. It has been discussed with Baghdad through several channels, and it
was discussed directly. But now that the decision was made by the political
parties in Kurdistan; Baghdad officially is now aware that
[the UN could] oversee not in the meaning that they are in charge
we are going with
this referendum. The negotiation is in fact officially continuing. But it is
now falling gradually into the frame of the political parties — that they have
now decided over the referendum. They [in Kurdistan] have to found a
negotiation committee, because in Baghdad, too a negotiation committee has been
formed by the National Alliance. This committee was in fact created by them
about 10 days ago.
[To negotiate] referendum?
No. it is about the future relationship between Erbil and
Baghdad. Here is what the agreement is: They have formed a committee of seven members,
and we, too need to form a committee at the earliest time. [So] that these two
committees are to be able to sit together, and for the agenda be open about various
issues which are related to the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad in the
The United Nation says that we have not yet been asked to
oversee the referendum in the Kurdistan Region. They say if we are asked to, we
will then take it into consideration. Would the Kurdistan Region ask the United
Nations to oversee the referendum?
We have had meeting with the representative of the United
Nations. Normally the mandate of the United Nations is that they preserve the
territorial integrity of Iraq. This is their job. But at the same time, the
order that the president of Kurdistan Region has
even if you do, you better have a different question
signed — and we will sent it
out tomorrow to the concerned parties. In that order, it was mentioned that the
representative of the United Nations, the representative of civil societies,
the representatives of the foreign organizations, to oversee or take part in —
to oversee this referendum … oversee not in the meaning that they are in
charge, but with the meaning that they become monitors in the process of
One other decision from the meeting was that a delegation of
the [Kurdistan] Region is to visit the countries in the region and the world … when
would this visit take place?
It is normal that the countries are aware now. And now some
of these countries have reacted. And here, that there are representations of
[foreign] countries [and the] communications have been made with them, and the
communication is continuing.
With regard to a committee or a delegation to visit
[these foreign] countries, it depends on the [Kurdistan] political parties,
because the order exists and therefore it is necessary that the political
parties send the names of those people [who would be on the committee], so that
we can make a committee out of them, and for these committees to go to abroad.
After the declaration of the date of the referendum, some of
the countries in the region made their stances public. How should the stances
of these countries be looked at?
Each country is different. With regard to America, we knew
that it will be their stance. Some time ago one of our delegations was in
Washington, and it was the same stance. When we told them that we are walking
towards referendum, they expressed their stance.
Yes the question [on the ballot] is …
Besides that, before they make
it public, they had communicated with us. They told us this is our stance. If
we study the American stance, on one side it says that they respect the desire
and the objectives of the people of Kurdistan, but on the other side it points
out that there is now the ISIS war and there are problems and that it is
necessary that this referendum does not influence the ISIS war. The way we read
it is that they are not opposed to referendum, they are against its timing. This is
not a very difficult stance, to tell you the truth. We understand this, and
will deal with it. We consider it a good stance. In fact it is a good stance.
We will deal with and discuss the aspects that are not compatible with the view
of the Kurdistan Region.
Compared to other countries, the Turkish stance was a bit
harder. And Turkey says that we had asked the Kurdistan Region not to hold
referendum. Did they present such a request from the Kurdistan region?
Yes, that is true. Yes Turkish delegation visited us, some
time ago. They said officially that, ‘We understand that you will take the
decision on referendum no matter what. It is better that you do not take the
decision, and even if you do, you better have a different question.’ It is
true. But at the same time we see that the issue of referendum is a democratic
issue. It is an issue … it is the right of
And the question would be in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen, and Assyrian languages.
every nation if it can to hold
referendum. referendum have been held in other countries, too. In Turkey itself,
they held referendum over the constitution of Turkey. This referendum that will
take place in Iraqi Kurdistan is solely related to Iraqi Kurdistan. We want to
emphasize that this referendum that takes place in Kurdistan concerns only Iraqi
Have you decided the question? What is the question?
Yes the question is, and I believe it has been published,
too. The question is: ‘Do you vote for the state of Kurdistan: Yes or No?’
Does it include the entire Southern Kurdistan [Iraqi
Kurdistan] including the disputed areas?
It is the entire southern Kurdistan along with these
[disputed] areas. And the question would be in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen, and