Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi [centre] attends a session of the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad on September 27, 2017 when they passed a set of measures against the Kurdish independence vote held by Erbil. Photo Karim Kadim / AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The largest Kurdish parliamentary faction in Baghdad has said it will withdraw Iraqi parliamentary sessions unless the legislature reconsiders the punitive measures it passed against Erbil in response to the independence referendum held by Kurdistan on September 25.
Noting that many problems existed even before the referendum, MP Renas Jano said the Iraqi parliament has “further complicated” the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad by passing a “tsunami” of illegal and unconstitutional measures against the people of Kurdistan for voting overwhelmingly to leave Iraq.
Jano, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) faction, made his comments at a press conference on Tuesday.
The KDP faction has 25 seats in the 328-seat Iraqi parliament that is controlled by a Shiite Arab majority led by the ruling Shiite National Alliance.
Jano said they will seek to coordinate with other Kurdish factions in the parliament who collectively have 66 seats.
He called on Baghdad to stop passing punitive measures against the people of Kurdistan, its government, and Kurdish members of the Iraqi government, pointing out that the parliament is trying to strip membership from some Kurdish MPs who voted in the referendum.
Jano expressed the willingness of the Kurdistan Region to enter dialogue without any conditions attached by either side.
“Any negotiation with Baghdad should be without any conditions, especially the condition that they mention which calls to annul the results of the referendum held by the people of the Kurdistan. This is a condition that we reject and is impossible for us to agree to,” he told reporters at a party office in Erbil.
He said they first started their boycott when the parliament started to pass decisions that targeted Kurdistan, including the decision to remove the Kurdish governor of the oil-rich and diverse province of Kirkuk earlier this year.
“As long as they continue these policies and continue not to reconsider their policies, we see no reason for us to go back to Baghdad for now,” Jano said.
Noting that every MP is entitled to express their opinion, he said it will be “a great honour to be punished when we are in line with the voice of our people.” Nearly 93 percent of the people voted to leave Iraq.
Muthana Amin, the head of the faction of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), told Rudaw English that they want to take part in parliamentary sessions, but they cannot do so unless there is “a healthy environment” where Kurdish MPs will feel welcome.
He said the majority of Iraqi MPs believe the Kurdish MPs who voted for independence have committed treason against the country.
He said such actions by the Iraqi parliament “means they will cut their line of communication with us and push us to declare independence.”
It is not clear if other Kurdish factions will take similar stances, but the KDP’s Jano said that even if Kurdish MPs opt to take part in the parliament, they are being prevented from doing so.
Erbil has said they are open to dialogue with Baghdad without any pre-conditions from either side, keeping an open agenda and within a defined time frame. The Iraqi government, however, insists it is not prepared to discuss the outcome of the referendum in any shape or form.