ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have signed a four-year political agreement which includes measures to speed up the formation of the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
KDP deputy president Nechirvan Barzani and the PUK's acting leader Kosrat Rasul signed the cooperation deal in Erbil on Monday afternoon.
“We both are winners. Our people are the winners,” Saadi Pira, a member of the PUK politburo, told Rudaw.
“The security of our people is the priority, for Kurdistan to be stable. I hope everyone thinks of the people’s interests, not partisan interests,” said Fazil Mirani, secretary of the KDP politburo, adding that party interests are best secured through serving the people.
“One party can’t do certain political things without the other,” said Rasul, adding they hope to improve people’s lives, salaries, and to rectify past mistakes.
The KDP-PUK deal was welcomed by the Change Movement (Gorran), which struck its own deal with the KDP on February 16.
“The Change Movement considers the KDP-PUK agreement a good step and a right direction for this phase, serving the political process and high interests of our nation and the stability of Kurdistan and Iraq,” read a party statement published Monday night.
The politburos of the KDP and PUK met on Monday following a meeting on Sunday between Rasul and KDP President Masoud Barzani.
They discussed the new KRG cabinet and other outstanding issues like the post of Iraqi justice minister and governor of Kirkuk.
The KDP obtained 45 seats in its parliamentary election on September 30, while the PUK took 21.
This new four-year agreement is set to replace the so-called “Strategic Agreement” of 2005, which united the Kurdistan Region into a unified KRG administration, albeit with remaining divisions in certain areas, especially security and the Peshmerga.
The 2005 agreement stipulated that the PUK would get control of the Iraqi presidency, while the KDP would take the Kurdistan Region presidency, and both would take turns every two years to hold the office of KRG prime minister.
The agreement, however, was left redundant by changing political equations – particularly the rise of the Change Movement (Gorran), which broke away from the PUK.
The Strategic Agreement also lost its relevance as a result of the October 16 events in Kirkuk, when factions within PUK allegedly withdrew Peshmerga forces from the disputed province in the face of an Iraqi offensive, provoked by the Region’s independence referendum.
The agreement was effectively nullified when the KDP demanded control of the Iraqi presidency – a demand blocked by the PUK.
Monday’s agreement will replace the 2005 deal, but will expire after 4 years.
“Today is a day that will be mentioned in the history of our nation, when the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party signed a political agreement,” said KDP spokesperson Mahmoud Mohammed.
The agreement is designed to strengthen unity and joint work to govern the Region towards furthering the interests of the people, the KDP spokesperson said.
“We can say that the agreement is generally aimed at tranquility, unity, and to protect the territorial unity of the homeland and for the interests of the people of Kurdistan,” Mohammed said.
Together they have to support a strong government that can improve people’s lives, fix salaries, and negotiate with the Iraqi federal government for the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region, he added
PUK spokesperson Lateef Shiekh Omar told reporters: “It is an agreement that will be the compass and guideline for our joint work for now and the future.”
A committee has been set up to oversee the deal’s implementation, he said. Speeding up the formation of a new government is a top priority, he added.
Both the PUK and the KDP stressed they want the agreement to establish political and economic stability, especially towards replenishing the economy and developing it.
Neither provided much detail on the substance of the agreement except that the return of the Peshmerga to the disputed city of Kirkuk will only come after negotiations with Baghdad. Only then will the KDP and PUK discuss the appointment of a new governor.
The issue of governor for Kirkuk has long been a sticking point between the two parties. The KDP has in principle conceded to the PUK’s demand that the governor of Kirkuk must be a PUK member.
However, the KDP says the governor has to be someone who did not participate in the October 16 “treason”.
Currently, the return of Peshmerga to the disputed territories, especially to Kirkuk, is being explored by five subcommittees of Iraq’s Defense Ministry.
The Peshmerga Ministry and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, after a decree by the Iraqi PM, have started negotiations for the return of Peshmerga to the disputed territories, which has seen a decline in its security as ISIS sleeper cell resume attacks.
Upon agreement, joint operations, joint operations rooms, and bases and observation points will be formed between the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has said there is “unprecedented” cooperation between Iraqi forces and Peshmerga forces.
Such a return could see the end of military rule in the disputed city and a return to civilian administration.
Speaking to Rudaw TV, PUK politburo member Pira called the agreement the “best gift” the parties could have hoped for as the Region marks the 28th anniversary of the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The agreement is composed of 18 points, Pira said.
“It starts out with the unity of the Kurdistan Region’s territory, preserving it and defending it from any threat,” he said.
They will “try” to reform the Peshmerga, police forces, and Asayesh to turn them into a “national force” to better protect the Kurdistan Region.
Other terms include “improving” the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations “in terms of diplomacy and relations” and to create a “Regional Minister for Relations Affairs and Humanitarian Affairs”.
The parties aspire to greater transparency in the Region’s revenues and expenditure.
The agreement also stipulates “partnership” in the affairs of oil and energy, to see revenues “equally” distributed among the provinces.
“Consensus” over the movement of Peshmerga forces during times of peace and war, constitutional reform, and amendments to election laws also feature in the deal, Pira added.
One of the issues is that of electoral quotas. Only Christians should be able to vote for Christian candidates, and only Turkmen should be able to vote for Turkmen candidate, “otherwise, quotas will be exploited,” claimed Pira.
As for Kirkuk, they will work towards normalizing the “unnatural” situation in the disputed territories and preserving the constitutional rights of Kurdistan. They will also push for the implementation of Article 140, which calls for a referendum on whether Kirkuk should remain an Iraqi province or join the Kurdistan Region.
They will “reactivate” the joint Brotherhood List for Kirkuk to run in elections together, revealed Pira.
Relations with Baghdad and regional countries must also be based on a “shared vision”, he said.
The first key steps will see the parliament issue settled. Then the office of the region’s presidency will be reformed and reactivated. Then a president will be chosen.
The PUK has not yet decided whether it wants the position of parliamentary speaker, Pira claimed.
PUK MPs will most likely attend parliament following a meeting of the PUK leadership council, he added.
Updated 11.44 p.m.