Bafel Talabani takes a few questions from Rudaw in Baghdad. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Bafel Talabani dismissed concerns of a serious rift between the PUK and KDP.
PUK’s relations with the KDP are "very, very good," he told Rudaw in Baghdad.
Talabani is the eldest son of the late PUK founder Jalal Talabani. He has no official position in the party, but is an influential figure involved in many negotiations.
The two main ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region, the PUK and KDP have at times been fast friends and bitter enemies.
Their united front in Baghdad after the Iraqi parliamentary elections in May fell apart over the issue of the presidency – a post they both vied for.
The KDP alleged that the PUK reneged on a deal that would have given the KDP the presidency. The PUK denied there was a formal agreement in place. Upset when the PUK’s candidate, Barham Salih, won the post, the KDP said they would no longer treat the PUK as equals, but rather in proportion to their electoral gains.
"We never take these personally. Politics is politics. Mr. Masoud is dear, he is like my uncle,” said Talabani, referring to KDP leader Masoud Barzani.
Talabani was reportedly behind the agreement over the presidency. He has also been accused of striking a deal with Baghdad and Iran that saw the Peshmerga withdraw from Kirkuk last year. The PUK denies the allegations.
Talabani is hopeful that they can mend fences with other Kurdish parties as well. Gorran, Komal, and New Generation have accused the PUK and KDP of electoral fraud.
"If Kurds unite, if Kurds are together, Kurds can do whatever they want. Nobody can prevent us,” he said.
He said they plan to hold a multi-party meeting soon in order to strategize how best cement their position as the new Iraqi government is put together by Prime Minister-designate Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Talabani is also optimistic they will regain the governorship in Kirkuk for the Kurds. Sunni Arab Rakan al-Jabouri has been acting as interim governor for the past year.
"Let us the parties sit down together, for Sulaimani to be calm, sit down with our brothers in the KDP. All of this will be solved,” said Talabani.
The Kirkuk provincial council hasn’t been able to convene for months because the KDP is boycotting the city, calling it “occupied” by Iraqi federal forces.
Both the PUK and KDP, however, would like to take the governorship.