Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, backed by the US-led Global Coalition, have been fighting against the ISIS group in Mosul and elsewhere in the country. The Kurdish Peshmerga have said that they will continue their cooperation with the Iraqi army against ISIS despite the Independence referendum vote set for September 25. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdish parties have called on the Iraqi government to respect a US-sponsored agreement that stipulates the Iraqi army will not interfere in resolving their political disagreements, a senior Kurdish official told reporters Tuesday following a vote by the Iraqi parliament
that commits the Iraqi Prime Minister to take “all measures” to cancel the Kurdish independence referendum.
Mala Bakhtiyar, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), made the remarks in a press conference in Erbil after a trilateral meeting between his party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Gorran.
He said that today’s vote by the Iraqi parliament empowers the Iraqi government to resort to military measures against the Kurdistan Region, something that is both a major “setback” to Iraqi democracy and also in violation of an agreement signed between the central and regional governments.
Bakhtiyar explained the three parties felt sorry by the decision of the Iraqi parliament, but warned that they will not give in to “threats” or decisions taken without the consultation of Kurdish parties.
“We felt sorry when they gave the authorization to the commander-in-chief Mr Haider al-Abadi whereby it relies on the military force to protect the unity of Iraq,” Bakhtiyar said.
He called on the Iraqi government to respect its agreement with the Kurdish government to keep the Iraqi army out of the political process.
“We agreed with the Iraqi government during the term of Mr Nouri al-Maliki, and in the presence of the United Stated, that the Iraqi army will not interfere to solve the political problems in Iraq,” the Kurdish official added making reference to the then Iraqi PM Maliki.
“That agreement exists and is signed between the [Kurdistan] Region and the federal government of Iraq and with the US sponsorship,” he explained.
The Iraqi government is opposed to the Kurdish referendum calling it unconstitutional and unilateral. The Kurdish government, however, accuses the Iraqi government for having violated about one-third of the Iraqi constitution including Article 140 that concerns the issue of the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil such as the oil-rich Kirkuk.
The decision by the Iraqi parliament stipulated that the Kurdistan referendum is a “threat” against the unity of Iraq and that while the Iraqi constitution allows a referendum on a number of issues, such as Article 140 to address the disputed areas, it maintained that the constitution does not include a section that permits a referendum on separation.
The vote by the Iraqi parliament that was boycotted by Kurdish MPs reads that “the Iraqi government will be responsible for preserving the unity of Iraq, taking all measures and decisions that include the protection of the unity of Iraq.”
Bakhtiyar said that they want to calm the situation in Baghdad as he expected a second round of talks between the Kurdish and Iraqi political parties to discuss the Kurdish independence referendum.
A high-level Kurdish delegation visited the Iraqi capital last month as they met with various Iraqi and foreign officials to discuss the independence referendum including with PM Abadi. The second round of talks was expected to take place in Erbil earlier this month, but an official from the ruling Shiite National Alliance told Rudaw
earlier that it did not go ahead as “fiery remarks” by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani made it impossible for the Iraqi delegation to visit Erbil.
Also in July, the Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan al-Hayali denied news reports that he had threatened that the Iraqi army would interfere if the Kurdistan Region held a referendum and declared independence. He told Rudaw
that the issue of the referendum is “political” in nature and therefore the Iraqi army and his defense ministry are out of it.
The United States has maintained that the timing of the referendum “is wrong,” citing the war against ISIS. Kurdish officials have insisted that the vote will go on and the Ministry of Peshmerga has repeatedly expressed that the referendum is a political matter that will not affect their ability to coordinate with Iraqi security forces in the war.
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday in Kirkuk that the independence vote will go ahead as planned on September 25.