Irbil, Baghdad, Ankara- The Kurdistan Region of Iraq closed on Saturday the door in the face of regional and international parties calling for the postponement of the referendum on independence and asserted it would proceed with the vote as scheduled on Monday.
As Iraqi Kurds living abroad already started to vote electronically on the referendum, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government held meetings with the Iraqi ruling Shi’ite coalition in Baghdad on Saturday.
The delegation carried the last message from Irbil ahead of the vote, stipulating that there will be no backoff and that talks between the two sides will start after the referendum and not before it.
“The Kurdish delegation’s visit to Iraq aims to reach an agreement and to inform Baghdad about our decision to hold the referendum on time. The Iraqi side must respect the historic dream of the Kurdish people for independence,” Kurdistan Islamic Movement Politburo member, Abdulla Warti told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.
Warti added: “We will be allies in the war against terrorism and we will share good-neighborly relations. The Kurdistan state will be a source of stability in the region.”
The race of the last hours of the vote came as Turkey escalated its threats by alluding that Ankara would take security steps in response to the referendum, while the Turkish parliament voted on Saturday to extend by a year a mandate authorizing the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq and Syria.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey would take security, economic and political steps in response to the referendum.
Kurdish voters have less than 24 hours to cast their ballots on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq in the Kurdistan region-controlled areas and in a number of territories disputed between Irbil and Baghdad.
Meanwhile, in Irbil, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani told French ambassador to Iraq Bruno Aubert that “no time is left to talk about postponing and the decision is not in the hands of a party or a person,” stressing the referendum will take place on time.
On Saturday, Sherwan Zrar, the spokesperson of Kurdistan’s Independent High Referendum and Electoral Commission (IHREC) told Asharq Al-Awsat that 136 international observing teams have registered to oversee the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum process.