Masoud Barzani looks forward to ‘friendly’ talks with Baghdad after next week’s referendum on regional independence

Northern Iraq’s Kurdish region looks forward to “serious and friendly” dialogue with Baghdad following next week’s poll on regional independence, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani said Wednesday.

Speaking at a campaign rally in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah, Barzani stressed the legality of the planned referendum, slated to be held next Monday.

“It [the referendum] isn’t a crime,” he asserted. “After suffering injustice for 100 years, the Kurds are finally demanding independence.”

Barzani went on to say that Erbil, the KRG’s administrative capital, was “ready to hold serious and friendly dialogue” with Baghdad following next week’s controversial poll.

“Once we resolve all our differences [with Baghdad] in one or two years, we can say goodbye in a friendly manner and live side-by-side as good neighbors,” he said.

The non-binding referendum will see Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas -- and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad -- vote on whether or not to declare full independence from Iraq.

Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran and the UN have all spoken out against the poll, saying it will only distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.

Iraq’s central government has even threatened to intervene militarily in the event that the vote leads to violence.

Barzani, for his part, has said that a “yes” vote would not initiate an automatic declaration of independence but would simply lead to further negotiations with Baghdad.

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