A Peshmerga soldier stands guard in Kirkuk. File photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has started talks with Sunni Arabs in a bid to normalize Kirkuk’s situation. Arabs and Turkmen have added new conditions by the day due to the KDP division with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Joint administration and military forces vacating Kirkuk is the latest KDP roadmap to normalize Kirkuk's situation. The KDP has begun high-level meetings with the Sunni Arab forces of Kirkuk and the new Iraqi government cabinet.
"Since the formation of the government, his Excellency, President [Masoud Barzani] is in touch with the Prime Minister and decision makers of Iraq for the militarization of these areas to end," said Shakhawan Abdullah, a former KDP MP in Iraqi parliament, on Wednesday.
The current situation threatens peace, security, stability, and social harmony, added Abdullah.
"We all back the president for all his projects, and political parties and forces need to support the president for the situation is Kirkuk and other areas to come to an end," added Abdullah.
The Sunnis are a major part of the project. KDP held its first meeting with the Iraqi Republican Gathering and a party in the Sayirun alliance. Kirkuk is diverse and home to Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, and some Christians.
The Arabs unilaterally have presented 10 points in the discussions.
"The Iraqi Republican Gathering, who visited Mr. Masoud Barzani, to resolve the issues before they get more acute. The issues of the Arabs are complex, and they reach back before October 16," said Hattam Taai, the spokesperson for the Arabic Council in Kirkuk.
Division of power, the case of the arrested Arabs and demolished villages are some of the issues they have as Arabs.
"These are easy issues, and can be resolved legally, if there is understanding between the components of the province," added Taai.
Kurdistani party division has caused the Arabs and Turkmen to present new conditions by the day to resolve Kirkuk’s situation.
The PUK is also perusing efforts to appoint a Kurdish governor in return for a major concession. It is willing to give the position of provincial council head and Kirkuk’s mayor to Arabs and Turkmen. Iraq’s PUK president has been involved in the talks.
The KDP enjoys good relations with the Sunni National Axis Alliance, the largest Sunni bloc. They have agreed for joint work in many fields, and their approaching of Sunnis might be along these lines.
Since 2005, the governor of Kirkuk has been a Kurd. By constitutional writ, the post is to be decided upon by the provincial council. Following the events of October 2017, former PM Haider al-Abadi urged parliament to oust then Governor Najmaldin Karim, a Kurd. He was replaced by Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, a Sunni Arab.
Kirkuk has participated in one provincial election in the “new Iraq.” The country held provincial elections in 2013, but Kirkuk, Kurdish, and some of the disputed provinces did not participate.
KDP and PUK tensions over Kirkuk reportedly have influenced policy in the formation of the governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.