Bafel, son of the late former Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, addresses the people of Kurdistan on October 12, 2017. Photo: screenshot
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The son of the late former Iraqi President and PUK leader Jalal Talabani has offered to dissolve the Kurdish-led Kirkuk Provincial Council, remove its governor if needed, and enter talks with Baghdad within the framework of the Iraqi constitution in order to resolve the high tensions between Erbil and Baghdad over the independence referendum.
Kirkuk is part of the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. The province took part in the vote based on a majority vote by the Kirkuk Provincial Council, also backed by the Kurdish Governor Najmaldin Karim, a PUK member.
Bafel Talabani said in a televised statement Thursday evening that the current tensions whereby the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces are facing one another is unwanted and it is up to his party to become Kurdistan’s savior by finding some light within the darkness that affected the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
He called on the Kurdish and Iraqi government to jointly, as a temporary measure, administer the disputed areas which he described as a “firestorm.” Baghdad had earlier called for a similar arrangement until the fate of such areas gets resolved.
Regardless of the legality of the referendum, Bafel said the Kurdistan Region now has the “opinion” of the people of Kurdistan.
“This period is over,” Bafel said of the referendum era.
“I now call for unconditional negotiation with Baghdad using the constitutional law written under the guidance of Mam Jalal. This way we can guarantee the rights of our people...with the support of the international community.”
He said that the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi forces are “on the specter of war. A war we do not need, a war we do not want.”
He added that the Kurdistan Region is now under pressure from the international community because of the vote. “This is not the Mam Jalal way," he said using the Kurdish word for Uncle, as Talabani is known among the Kurds.
“The PUK has to lead the people of Kurdistan and Iraq out of this darkness,” he said.
“I urge the PUK to defend the people of Kurdistan. The PUK must follow the teachings of Mam Jalal, or the PUK ceases to be Mam Jalal’s PUK. We must not allow this. We will never allow this,” Bafel concluded.
VIDEO: Bafel Talabani delivers a televised statement in English, with Kurdish translation on October 12, 2017.
Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, an influential politburo member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Talabani’s widow, also published a statement following her son’s, saying that they want to keep the situation in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk stable in light of the standoff between the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.
She called on the two forces to exercise restraint.
Ahmad, whose party is the third-largest in the Kurdistan Region with its own Peshmerga and security forces especially in Sulaimani, Halabja and Kirkuk provinces, called on both Erbil and Baghdad to get over the referendum-era, and instead open a new page in light of the Iraqi constitution.
“The phase of the referendum and its results had passed. Let’s begin a new phase for the sake of our land and our people, and this could be done in dialogue with Baghdad to solve all the problems between Baghdad and the Region in accordance to the [Iraqi] constitution and its results,” Ahmad, also known as Hero Khan in Kurdistan, said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that they will hold no talks with Erbil without first scrapping the Kurdish independence referendum. Erbil has so far refused to give in to this demand from Baghdad, despite the many punitive measures taken against it by the Iraqi government, including a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdistan region, threats to bring the Kurdish land borders under the federal authority in cooperation with neighboring Turkey and Iran, as well as warning of deployment of Iraqi forces to the disputed areas.
Kurdistan’s Security Council claimed on Wednesday that Iraqi forces, including the Iranian-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, were preparing for a “major attack” on Kurdistan west and south of Kirkuk, and north of Mosul. The Iraqi government denied they want to attack the Kurdish-controlled areas.
Earlier this week, Talabani’s nephew, also the head of the party’s anti-terror force, Lahur Talabany, criticized holding the Kurdish independence referendum despite being advised against it by regional countries and the international community.
Bafel demanded the PUK’s members of the Iraqi parliament go back to Baghdad, while asking the Iraqi parliament to return to the practice of the principle of consensus.
The PUK was one of the main two parties of the Kurdistan Region who supported the Kurdish independence referendum that saw 92.7 percent of the people voting for independence. But some of the party’s senior leaders, including Bafel, were reluctant to turn down the US-backed alternative instead of the referendum.
Just days before the vote, Bafel published a statement saying that his party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) had agreed to postpone the vote. He later claimed that the statement was published “by mistake.”
The Kurdish parliament, which also includes the PUK faction, voted to back the independence vote just 10 days before the historic process.
The PUK’s politburo held a meeting on Thursday without publishing any statement. Rafaat Abdullah, who took part in the meeting, told his party’s media that the meeting will be continued tomorrow.
Kosrat Rasul, the party’s first deputy head, who is now in theory PUK’s interim leader after the death of Jalal Talabani earlier this month, has strongly supported the Kurds’ drive for independence since day one.
Earlier in the day, Kurdistan’s second largest party Gorran or the Change Movement and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), two parties who neither supported, nor opposed the Kurdish vote, said in a joint statement that the Kurdistan Region is facing a threat because of a decision by “some” Kurdish parties to hold the referendum by bypassing the Kurdish parliament. They said they hold those parties who called for the vote, including the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, responsible for whatever threats are facing the Kurdish Region.