This article was published on Ekurd Daily on 27 August 2017.

Massoud Barzani (L) receives French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian and French Defence Minister Florence Parly (R) in Erbil, Iraq, August 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters

France supports an autonomous Kurdistan that remains part of the Iraqi state.

HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met with Massoud Barzani in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Saturday, weeks before a planned referendum on independence of Kurdistan.

Le Drian was joined by French Defence Minister Florence Parly at the meeting with Barzani, held at the presidential palace meeting hall.

France and other western countries are worried that the referendum next month could ignite fresh conflict with Baghdad and neighbouring states who host sizeable Kurdish communities, mainly Iran and Turkey.

Prior to the meeting in Erbil, a diplomat familiar with French policy said Le Drian and Parly would convey to Massoud Barzani the French position in favor of an autonomous Kurdistan that remains part of the Iraqi state.

French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian and French Defense Minister Florence Parly arrived on Saturday in Erbil.

Le Drian and Parly were received by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani.

Earlier on Saturday, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari welcomed his French counterpart Le Drian and Parly, to Baghdad.

Barzani to French ministers: Kurdistan maintains plans to hold referendum on Sept. 25

Massoud Barzani announced on Saturday that the Kurdistan Region will maintain plan to hold a referendum on independence on Sept. 25, during meeting with French ministers of defense and foreign affairs.

The official website of Barzani’s office issued a statement, saying that Massoud Barzani “stated that the Kurdistan experiences with Baghdad have repeatedly failed and that the people of Kurdistan are entitled to the right to voice their stance on independence.”

“It is therefore, the President added, that we will hold the Kurdistan Independence Referendum as scheduled, on September 25.”

Last week Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis have visited Iraqi Kurdistan and met with Massoud Barzani over the independence referendum.

The Kurdistan Region’s political parties, not including Gorran Movement and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), came to an agreement on June 7 to hold a referendum on the region’s independence on September 25, 2017. The decision was slammed by Iraq, US, UK, EU, Russia, Germany, Turkey and Iran.

Analysts have little doubt that the September 25 referendum would result in a ‘Yes’ for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.

But the result would be non binding and leave the approximately five million Kurds of Iraqi Kurdistan some way away from actual independence.