(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Washington has urged Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani to postpone an independence referendum scheduled for next month but he requested something in return, his office said Saturday.
The timing of the September 25 vote has drawn criticism from both the Baghdad and Western governments, coming as the campaign against the ISIS terrorist group in Iraq if still unfinished.
In a telephone call on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington "would want for the referendum to be postponed and that the issues between the Kurdistan region and the federal government in Baghdad should be addressed through dialogue", Barzani's office said in an English-language statement.
The Kurdish leader responded that were it to be put off, "the people of the Kurdistan region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future".
Some Iraqi Kurdish officials have openly acknowledged that calling the referendum was intended as a bargaining counter in negotiations with Baghdad on other issues.
However, Reuters on Saturday quoted Hoshyar Zebari, Barzani’s advisor, as saying that Iraq’s Kurds will maintain their plan to hold the referendum.
“The date is standing, Sept. 25, no change,” the Iraqi Kurdish official.
The developments came on the backdrop of the US State Department’s expression of concern back in June that the referendum will distract from “more urgent priorities” such as the fight against Daesh terrorists.
Senior officials in Baghdad as well as in neighboring states of Iran and Turkey have voiced concerns over the planned vote, warning against largely Western-backed attempts to partition Iraq.
In June, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described as untimely the decision by Barzani to hold the referendum.