“From now on, we won’t hide that that’s our goal. Iraq is effectively partitioned now.
Iraq Kurdistan independence referendum planned
Leader of the Kurdish region of Iraq Masoud Barzani: “The goal of Kurdistan is independence”
The leader of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan has told the BBC he intends to hold a referendum on independence within months.
Masoud Barzani said that Iraq was in effect already partitioned.
He said that while the Kurds would play a part in a political solution to the country’s crisis, independence was what he described as their natural right.
Iraq’s parliament meanwhile meets for the first time since April’s elections and in the midst of a major insurgency.
It faces the task of creating a unified government to deal with the escalating political crisis.
The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen considers whether the Iraqi government can prevent the break up of the country
Huge swathes of northern Iraq are now in the hands of Sunni insurgents, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) militants, who have declared an Islamic caliphate in their newly conquered territories.
In the past month many Iraqi troops have fled northern cities in the face of sweeping advances by Isis rebels, allowing the Kurds to move into previously disputed areas, such as the oil-rich region of Kirkuk.
Kurds are willing to play a part in a political solution to Iraq’s crisis even though the country was in effect already partitioned, Mr Barzani said Independence is natural right for Kurdish people, Mr Barzani said
“Everything that’s happened recently shows that it’s the right of Kurdistan to achieve independence,” Mr Barzani said.
“From now on, we won’t hide that that’s our goal. Iraq is effectively partitioned now. Are we supposed to stay in this tragic situation the country’s living? It’s not me who will decide on independence. It’s the people. We’ll hold a referendum and it’s a matter of months.”
The cause of Kurdish independence was supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend who said that it was a necessary response to gains made by Isis.
Kurdish peshmerga forces have moved into the disputed oil-rich region of Kirkuk following the sweeping advances made by Isis rebels
The Kurds have long striven for an independent state but they remain divided between Syria and Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
The international community, including neighbouring Turkey and the US, remains opposed to the break-up of Iraq.
The BBC’s Andrew Hosken in Baghdad says the first decision facing the majority Shia government when parliament reconvenes on Tuesday will be whether to replace Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, whom critics blame for stoking sectarian tensions during his eight years in power.
Fresh clashes have meanwhile been reported between jihadist-led Sunni rebels and government forces around the Iraqi city of Tikrit.
Witnesses said there had been a wave of air strikes and that former President Saddam Hussein’s palace had been hit.
A local source told the BBC the rebels had meanwhile seized parts of a nearby military base in a counter-attack.
US President Barack Obama has announced he is sending about another 200 troops to protect the US embassy in Baghdad.
This means about 750 US troops are in and around Iraq, but President Obama has ruled out sending combat troops to fight alongside the Iraqi army