From left to right: Kurdistan Vice President Kosrat Rasul, Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, and influential PUK politburo member Hero Ibrahim Ahmad. Photo: Rudaw TV
DUKAN, Kurdistan Region – The meeting of the KDP and PUK leadership in Dukan, joined by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, also a PUK member, has ended with an affirmation of “national unity in the face of all pressure” and a refusal to cancel the referendum result, said Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) “reject any demands to nullify the referendum results,” Hawrami said on Twitter. They also refused to accept any preconditions for talks with Baghdad.
Baghdad has said that the Kurdish leadership must cancel the vote before agreeing to enter into any negotiations after the September 25 referendum that saw 92.7 percent support for Kurdistan’s independence from Iraq.
The meeting in Dukan came after a tense night south of Kirkuk as the Peshmerga were engaged in a standoff with Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Armed civilians took to the streets of Kirkuk, vowing to defend their lands.
The KDP and PUK said they are ready to reach a “peaceful resolution for [the] current standoff in all areas,” Hawrami tweeted. They reject the military option, but are “ready to defend.”
The two parties, who have historically dominated the political and military landscape in the Kurdish lands of Iraq and have been at times firm friends and bitter foes, insisted they are unified as Kurdistan faces pressure from Baghdad and international allies to back off their bid for independence.
They insist that no one party will enter into negotiations with Baghdad alone. “If there be any negotiation with Baghdad it will be a joint delegation representing all Kurdistan parties,” Hawrami tweeted.
Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani and Iraqi President Fuad Masum headed the high level meeting of the two main ruling Kurdish parties in Sulaimani’s Dukan resort to discuss the post-referendum crisis between Erbil and Baghdad.
Kurdistan Vice President Kosrat Rasul, who is also first deputy head of the PUK, was at the meeting, among other senior PUK and KDP officials, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani who is also the KDP deputy head.
VP Rasul, who deployed at least 6,000 troops to Kirkuk on Thursday to face Iraqi “threats” on the oil-rich province, told Rudaw in advance of the meeting that it will be “decisive.”
He said, “We will take decisions on all of the issues” that have faced Kurdistan since 92.7 percent of the people voted for leaving Iraq in the September 25 referendum.
Asked about demands from Iraqi forces, including the Hashd al-Shaabi, that the Peshmerga leave their posts or face an attack, Rasul said, “We will decide whether we will agree or reject these demands.”
He said the Peshmerga and the people in Kirkuk are more than ready to defend any aggression.
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Barzani, said that the meeting will "assess [and] decide" on the issues of concern post September 25, including "regional intervention."
Arif Qurbani, a Kurdish journalist with close ties to the PUK, told Rudaw that the meeting is significant since it will put historic responsibility on the shoulders of the two parties, one that they “should live up to.”
As the Kurdish leadership meet, US and Iranian representatives are in the country.
Brett McGurk, US special presidential envoy to the war against ISIS, visited Baghdad on Saturday where he met with the head of the ruling Shiite National Alliance Ammar al-Hakim to discuss the Kurdistan vote.
Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds force, visited Sulaimani on Saturday, publicly paying his respects to the late former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Regarding Soleimani’s efforts to derail the Kurdistan vote or cancel its outcome, journalist Qurbani said the Iranian commander is back in Iraq to save face before his superiors in Iran since he failed to stop the vote from taking place.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to hold a meeting with the National Alliance regarding the current crisis between his government and Erbil, Rudaw’s reporter in Baghdad Bahman Hasan said.
President Masum, a Kurd, has already held a two-day long meeting with his PUK leadership in Sulaimani on Saturday and Sunday, as well as with Gorran, Kurdistan’s second largest party, on Saturday.
PM Barzani had told Rudaw earlier that Masum will announce an initiative to mediate between Erbil and Baghdad.
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 Kurdistani or disputed areas claimed by both governments.