SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi received the eldest son of the late Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Thursday. The two discussed the prospect of solving the problems between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments based on the constitution.
Bafel Talabani, who also met with the head of the ruling Shiite National Alliance Ammar al-Hakim, was described by the two Iraqi officials as a "leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan."
Although he is a PUK member, there is no public record of him holding a senior PUK position within the party including that of politburo or the council of leadership. He is an influential member of the PUK security forces.
The two sides said that they discussed the political and "security" situation both in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, as well as the possibility of talks between Erbil and Baghdad based on the Iraqi constitution.
Abadi told Talabani that what he did with regards to Erbil was "in the interest” of the Kurdistan Region. He reiterated that Baghdad will send Erbil the salaries of KRG employees cut since early 2014 after an audit of the figures provided by the regional government.
The relations between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region reached its lowest-point in more than a decade when the Iraqi security forces entered the disputed or Kurdistani areas such as oil-rich Kirkuk following deadly clashes in October — less than a month after the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum.
Baghdad has also imposed a ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region, demanded the Kurdistan Region hand over its borders to the Iraqi authorities, and requested the Kurdish Peshmerga to withdraw to their pre-2003 lines.
Some PUK elements, especially the Talabani family, were accused of handing over Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu to the Iraqi forces and the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi in the October incursion. Talabani himself is the focus of these accusations. These PUK elements deny the accusations.
Talabani said that he discussed the situation in Kirkuk and Khurmatu with PM Abadi, adding that "progress was made," and that he was looking forward to a "continued good relationship with the prime minister."
Tens of thousands of Kurdish people were displaced as a result of the violence in diverse Khurmatu, mainly because abuses committed by the Shiite paramilitias, such as the looting and bombing houses of Kurdish residents, as reported by various rights organizations including Amnesty International, the United Nations, as well as by Iraqi and Kurdish officials.
Hakim, from the National Alliance, said that he emphasized that any disagreements could be solved through dialogue if there is "willingness" and a "compromise in the interests of the homeland." He added that he hopes for an opening with regards to the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad "in the coming days."
PUK's acting head Kosrat Rasul, who has been receiving treatment for a medical condition in Germany since late November, will come back to the Kurdistan Region on Saturday, Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior PUK member said on Thursday.
Rasul is among those who accused Bafel and other PUK elements of "treason" for the fall of Kirkuk. The party has opened an investigation.
The party is expected to hold a congress in March following the death of the PUK's founder and former leader Jalal Talabani in early October.