Dindar Zebari, head of the Kurdistan Region Government’s High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports, said that the U.N. Security Council had officially been informed about the intention to hold a referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan Region this year. Zebari told the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) that the “[United Nations] will be a part of the mechanism set to oversee upcoming elections”, including the referendum. Recent discussions over a referendum in the U.N. Security Council means that U.N. officials have officially been told that a referendum to decide the fate of the Kurdistan Region would be held, he said. “Speeches by the United Nations Envoy to Iraq, who said that Barzani informed them that the region will hold a referendum, shows that an official channel [the U.N.] has been informed [along with] the International Security Council as the political and legal side, about the region’s intention to hold a referendum which no one can stand against”, he added. The United Nations Envoy to Iraq said on May 22 that Kurdistan Region senior officials intend to hold the referendum this year. In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (SRSG) for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said Kurdish senior officials have shown their intention to hold a referendum on the region’s future later in 2017. Kubis added that Kurdish officials had indicated their aim was to “show the world the will of the people” on the status of Kurdistan rather than to declare independence immediately.
Two of the main Kurdish parties have released a joint statement emphasizing that holding referendum for independence is a “national” matter and therefore needs to be discussed and “finalized” in the Kurdish parliament, an institution that has been paralyzed since October 2015. The ruling KDP, which holds the posts of Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s presidency and prime ministry has so far insisted that the long-anticipated referendum does not need a mandate from the Kurdish legislature. With regard to the so-called disputed areas, otherwise defined by the Kurdish authorities as the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region, the two sides say that they are for holding a referendum in these places, which importantly include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, claimed both by Baghdad and Erbil. “The two sides agree on holding referendum in the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Kurdistan Region”. The statement added that they discussed a number of pressing issues, including power sharing between the two parties in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja in accordance with the agreement they signed last year, paving the way for shared governance in these two provinces. The PUK announced last Wednesday that holding an independence referendum in Kurdistan cannot be realized without reactivating the Kurdish parliament and seeking solutions for the outstanding political problems.