World, Middle East

Kurd region leader meets CENTCOM chief in Iraq’s Erbil

Massoud Barzani, General Joseph Leonard Fotel discuss fight against Daesh, planned referendum on region’s independence

18.08.2017
Kurd region leader meets CENTCOM chief in Iraq’s Erbil

By Idris Okuducu

ERBIL, Iraq

Massoud Barzani, president of northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, has met with General Joseph Leonard Fotel, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), with whom he discussed the fight against Daesh and the region’s upcoming referendum on independence.

According to a statement issued by Barzani’s office late Thursday, the meeting -- held in Erbil, the Kurdish region’s administrative capital -- tackled several recent developments in the wider Middle East.

“We understand the U.S. concern regarding the referendum,” Barzani told Fotel, according to the statement.

“And we want the administration in Washington to understand the concerns, decisions and will of the Kurdish people,” he added.

Barzani also said the elimination of terrorist groups constituted “a priority” for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), stressing that the planned referendum on independence would “not have an adverse impact on the fight against terrorism”.

The non-binding poll, slated for Sept. 25, will see residents of the Kurdish region vote on whether or not to declare independence from the central Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Baghdad, however, rejects the planned referendum, saying it could adversely affect the fight against Daesh, which -- despite recent military defeats -- still maintains a significant presence in Iraq.

The Iraqi government also maintains that the poll would violate Iraq’s 2005 constitution and would be “of no benefit -- politically or economically -- to the region’s Kurds”.

Turkey, too, rejects the planned referendum, insisting that the region’s stability is inextricably linked to the maintenance of Iraq’s territorial integrity.

The U.S., for its part, has likewise voiced concern that the poll could serve as a “distraction” from other pressing regional issues -- especially the fight against terrorism and the stabilization of war-weary Iraq.

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