Spokesperson of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Saadi Ahmed Pira. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The spokesperson of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) says there has been no decision made by his party to unilaterally visit Baghdad to hold talks as part of continued efforts to deescalate tensions which rose between Baghdad and Erbil in the wake of the independence referendum vote.
“Efforts to calm the situation continue in different ways. But no decision has been made for the PUK delegation to go to Baghdad alone for dialogue,” Saadi Pira, PUK spokesperson, said on Saturday.
To discuss the recent Baghdad-Erbil row, largely taking place in Kirkuk, Iraqi President Fuad Masum arrived in Sulaimani on Friday and held a meeting with the senior leadership of the PUK.
“They discussed good ideas," in a two-hour-long meeting, said Mala Bakhtyar, head of the PUK’s executive body. “We intend to hold a bigger meeting by Saturday to prepare a shared result."
The PUK and its Peshmerga are the dominant Kurdish force in Kirkuk province.
Rudaw learnt on Friday the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Shiite forces had handed out a six point message to the PUK through Masum, senior party member and president of Iraq, regarding Kirkuk.
The demands reportedly include: handing over the Kirkuk airport, handing over the K-1 military base, handing over all oil fields, handing over all ISIS prisoners held by the Peshmerga, allowing the return of the Iraqi army to all places where they were stationed before ISIS and to remove Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim from his position. The PUK was also reportedly given a deadline of 2 am Sunday morning to fulfill the six demands.
Hemin Hawrami, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and senior assistant to President Masoud Barzani, noted the six alleged demands were presented to the PUK only and predicted this latest effort to "divide and rule the Kurds" will fail, as others have.
Masum’s media office shortly afterwards denied that the president had a “message, demands or conditions of the Iraqi government or any other official or semi-official relevant party to deliver to the PUK leadership and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government].”
Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi are in a standoff with Peshmerga over Kirkuk. The Peshmerga sent 6,000 reinforcements to the disputed area on Thursday night to counter a buildup of Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi.
Peshmerga commanders told Rudaw in Kirkuk that the coalition has informed both the Iraqi and Kurdish forces that they will not allow either side to initiate a war.
Rudaw’s reporter in Kirkuk said that fighter jets have been flying over Kirkuk. Kurdish officials say the planes belong to the coalition.