Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani has declared that the “time has come” for the country’s Kurds to hold a referendum on statehood, a move likely to raise tensions with Baghdad.
But even if the various political challenges to independence are resolved, the major economic problems the region faces due to low oil prices are another bar to Kurdish independence.
“The time has come and the conditions are now suitable for the people to make a decision through a referendum on their future,” Barzani said in a statement released Wednesday.
“This referendum would not necessarily lead to (an) immediate declaration of statehood, but rather to know the will and opinion of the people of Kurdistan about their future,” said Barzani, who has remained in power despite the expiration of his term as president.
Barzani, who has made similar calls in the past, did not specify when the vote would take place.
Asked about the timing of the referendum, Ali Awni, a leader in Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, said: “Today is better than tomorrow,” but did not give a specific date.
Awni said that the Kurds have gained international sympathy from fighting the Daesh group, and that now “we must show the world the will of our people (for) independence and the right of self-determination.”