ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have discussed the ongoing battle for Mosul and Iraq’s internal issues, just three days after the Kurdistan Region formally announced its plan to hold referendum on independence in the fall.
Barzani and the Iraqi premier “discussed the overall political, security and economic situation in the country,” read a statement from the office of the Iraqi PM regarding their telephone call.
This marks the first time the two leaders have talked to each other after the Kurdish government declared that they would hold the referendum on September 25, a move that Baghdad has described as unilateral, that the whole nation should have their say over the future of Iraq, and that no party can determine their future in isolation of other parties.
The statement did not mention whether or not the two leaders discussed the referendum.
President Barzani held a meeting with political parties in the Kurdistan Region on Wednesday, when it was announced the Kurdistan Region would hold a referendum on September 25 that would also include "the Kurdistani areas outside the region's administration", a term Erbil uses for the disputed areas that are claimed both by Baghdad and Erbil. It is to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections on November 6.
The phone call reaffirmed the importance of a united line and “avoiding everything that will influence the momentum of the achieved victories,” the statement added.
It also reads that the two leaders discussed the battle of Mosul being in its last days, and continued cooperation between the Peshmerga and Iraqi armed forces on the ground.
Despite the two leaders repeatedly having described their joint military cooperation against the ISIS militants in Mosul as historical and unprecedented, the Iraqi-funded, mainly-Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi offensive launched last month into and around Yezidi areas of Shingal have caused some cracks in their relationship.
PM Abadi said last month that the issue had been resolved after Erbil expressed its concerns over the Hashd advance. Baghdad had to send the Iraqi national security advisor Falah Fayadh to meet Barzani to provide an explanation. The Kurdistan Region’s top security official Masrour Barzani then visited Abadi in early June in Baghdad.
Since the launch of the battle for Mosul last October, Barzani and Abadi have met a few times. The last meeting between the two leaders was in Erbil in early March where they had also emphasized continued ground cooperation between the Peshmerga and Iraqi army against ISIS especially in Nineveh province.
Peshmerga forces played a major role in the first stage of the Mosul operation, paving the way for Iraqi troops to enter the city in a kind of cooperation that has been hailed by Iraqi and Kurdish leaders as well as their international partners.
The telephone conversation between the Kurdish president and Iraqi premier took place on the same day Iraqi forces declared the liberation of western Mosul's Zanjali neighborhood, leaving just three neighborhoods under ISIS control there.