Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with Iraqi Vice Presidents Ayad Allawi and Osama al-Nujaifi in Sulaimani on Saturday where they had gathered to attend the funeral of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. Photo: KRP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Two of Iraq’s three vice presidents are backing dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to find a resolution to the stalemate that has emerged following Kurdistan’s independence referendum. They have also expressed support for lifting punitive measures imposed by the central government in response to the vote.
Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with Iraqi Vice Presidents Ayad Allawi and Osama al-Nujaifi in Sulaimani on Saturday where they had gathered to attend the funeral of Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.
Chief of Staff of the Kurdistan Region Presidency, Fuad Hussein, announced that the three agreed on four points, including “the immediate lifting of punishments on the Kurdistan Region.”
The Iraqi government has passed a number of punitive measures, including a ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region, a measure the Kurdistan government has called “collective punishment.” It has also officially demanded Kurdistan’s neighbors, both Turkey and Iran, close their land borders with the Kurdistan Region and help bring Kurdish oil exports under the control of federal authorities.
The Iraqi government opposed Kurdistan’s popular vote that took place on September 25 and has called for the vote to be annulled, something rejected by Erbil.
Hussein said the three leaders agreed for meetings to start between “Iraq’s main political parties to calm the situation” and the meetings should have an “open agenda.”
He also added that Barzani and the two vice presidents agreed the meetings should be held “in the near future.”
The role of the presidency in Iraq is largely ceremonial, though the individuals carry significant influence. The president of Iraq is a Kurd, Fuad Masum. The third vice president is Nouri al-Maliki, who is famously antagonistic towards the Kurdistan Region.
Barzani and Allawi were also seen speaking to each other at a funeral service held at a stadium in Sulaimani.
Allawi told reporters before his meeting with Barzani that there were efforts on the national, regional, and international levels to find a solution that best serves the interests of Iraq and preserves its unity.
When laying a wreath of flowers on the tomb of Talabani earlier in the day, Barzani was asked by reporters about the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. He said they have always called for dialogue to resolve outstanding issues with the government in Baghdad.
“We hope that this will become an opportunity for them [Iraqi officials] to reconsider their decisions,” Barzani said.
Following their meeting with Barzani, Allawi told Rudaw that the punitive measures taken by Iraq against the Kurdistan Region should be stopped, that “the Kurdish nation should not be punished and dialogue should be pursued.”
Both Allawi and Nujaifi reaffirmed to Rudaw that the solution to the problems between the two governments should be “Iraqi,” instead of coming from outside the country.
Some Iraqi officials, from both Shiite and Sunni parties, attended the funeral, including parliament speaker Salim al-Jaburi and head of the ruling Shiite National Alliance Ammar al-Hakim.