Published: 2017-09-11 12:30
Last Updated: 2017-09-11 13:13
President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani signalled that the autonomous region is prepared to draw its own borders, if Baghdad refuses to allow a referendum for independence.
Barzani indicated he wished to reach an agreement with the central government, should citizens of the region choose to secede. He has also warned that Kurds are prepared to fight any group attempting to change the reality in "Kirkuk" by force.
Prime Minister of Iraq Haide al-Abadi rejected the referendum, deeming it unconstitutional.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of the oil-rich city, which houses large Arab and Turkmen populations. Peshmerga have also took control of other areas claimed by Baghdad while driving out Daesh.
Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the region, but have never been granted permanent statehood. In Iraq, they make up 15% to 20% of the population of 37 million, having faced repression under Saddam's government before acquiring de facto autonomy after the Gulf War in 1991.
Top Kurdish officials and party leaders in the Kurdistan Regional Government agreed to host a referendum three months ago on independence.
Voting will take place on the 25th of September in the three provinces making up Iraqi Kurdistan: Dahuk, Irbil and Sulaimaniya, as well as areas outside of its administration including Kirkuk, Makhmour, Khanaqin and Sinjar.
However, Kurdish officials stated that if the majority votes for independence, it will not trigger an automatic declaration of independence. They do however, beleive it will strengthen negotiation with the central government on independence.
"This is the first step. This is the first time in history that people in Kurdistan will freely decide their future," Mr Barzani told the BBC.
"After that we will start talks with Baghdad, to reach an agreement over borders, water and oil," he added, before stating: "We will take these steps but if they don't accept, that will be another matter."
Barzani also rejects warnings from the United States and United Kingdom on the instability Kurdish independence will cause the region.