Members of the Kurdish security taking part in Kurdistan's Flag Day. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have discussed the formation of a new committee that would be tasked with talking with Baghdad about Kurdish independence, a referendum, and Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which concerns the so-called disputed areas.
The two parties released a joint statement on Wednesday following a high-level meeting headed by KDP’s deputy leader Nechirvan Barzani and PUK’s first deputy leader Kosrat Rasul in Erbil. They are also the prime minister and deputy president of the Kurdistan Region, respectively.
The issue of the Kurdish parliament, which has been closed since October 2015, was also among the topics discussed.
The two sides discussed “setting up appropriate mechanisms to solve the existential problems of the Kurdistan Region, most important of all reactivating the Kurdistan Parliament,” reads their statement.
There has been political deadlock between the KDP and the Gorran party since tensions arose between the two in October 2015, when demonstrators in Sulaimani attacked and torched several offices of the KDP. Since then, the parliament, whose speaker was from Gorran, has remained closed.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in November urged political parties to get together to reactivate the parliament, appoint a new cabinet, and appoint an interim president until presidential elections take place.
PM Barzani and Rasul also discussed the ongoing financial crisis that has crippled the Kurdish region for more than two years after Iraq cut its budget in 2014, coupled with low oil prices, and the heavy burden of the ongoing war against ISIS.
They are working to find a joint solution for the crisis, their statement read, which they said has made life difficult for the Kurdish people, in particular the estimated 1.4 million employees who receive their salaries from the Kurdish government.
The joint statement also said that the two parties will form a committee tasked with holding discussions with the central Iraqi government regarding the outstanding issues of Kurdish aspirations for holding a much-anticipated referendum over its future in Iraq, and eventually Kurdistan’s independence.
PM Barzani announced late last year that he had discussed the issue of Kurdish independence formally with Baghdad.
In the statement released today, the two parties said they discussed “forming a joint committee which will include representatives from all political parties in Kurdistan and the ethnic components, whose mission is to discuss with the Iraqi government and any concerned party over the issues of Article 140 in a defined period, then referendum, and Kurdistan independence.”
Article 140 was integrated into the Iraqi constitution after the removal of the Baath party in Iraq. It concerns areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad, such as Kirkuk and some areas in Nineveh.
The constitution requires that Iraqis displaced by “Arabization” be compensated and moved back to their original areas, a process that has been resisted by many Arabs who have lived in disputed areas for decades. Kurds see Article 140 as a way to remedy the injustices of “Arabization” policies and strengthen the Kurdistan Region.
Both the KDP and PUK also expressed their desire to help solve problems in other parts of greater Kurdistan, which are going through exceptional times. Syrian Kurds have formed their de facto autonomous region known as Rojava. Turkish Kurdistan faces a renewal of the three-decade long conflict between Kurdish militants and the Turkish state. And the Kurdish armed groups from Iran, who are mostly based in the Kurdistan Region, are still fighting for greater national and cultural rights.
The KDP and PUK said they are happy to offer a helping hand in solving the problems in these nations but are mindful of the sovereignty of other countries and will follow the policy of “not interfering in the internal affairs” of other countries.