File photo shows Mala Bakhtiyar, a senior PUK officials, speaking at an event in 2016.
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – A senior Kurdish official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said that they believe the Kurdish leadership should take the “alternative” offered by the US, UK, and UN “very seriously," an indication that the PUK takes a different view from President Masoud Barzani who described the offer as not sufficient enough.
”We from the PUK believe that the alternative should be taken very seriously,” Mala Bakhtiyar told reporters in Sulaimani.
He said the Kurdish leadership is going to have “important” meetings over two days to study the joint offer.
Bakhtiyar explained his party and other officials are yet “to get know to know the content of the alternative ... to look at what guarantees are there to in fact implement the alternative,” the PUK official continued.
He added the “alternative is to solve problems in Iraq, not to take a seat at the United Nations.”
Bakhtiyar concluded that the alternative “with full consent of the Iraqi government” should make sure that all outstanding issues are solved, the constitution of Iraq upheld, and democracy respected. He said they do not want the talk to be confined to merely financial incentives.
President Barzani received the joint offer from the US, UK, and UN on Wednesday. His office said it will be studied by Kurdish leadership, and then responded to very soon.
The “alternative” that was put forward to the Kurdish leadership in place of the scheduled independence referendum stipulates Erbil to postpone the vote for two years in return for the issue being raised at the United Nations, something the Kurdish president refused saying the alternative be “stronger” than that, a Kurdish official close to Barzani revealed.
Mohammed Haji Mahmud, a veteran Peshmerga and Secretary of the Kurdish Socialist Party, told the Saudi-funded Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that joint offer from the foreign nations plus the UN did not meet the Kurdish demands.
President Barzani said on the same day that any offer should clearly achieve the Kurdish ultimate goal of statehood.
They offered postponing the vote for two years “until a meeting in the United Nations discusses the Iraqi file, including the Kurdistan Region and the independence referendum,” Mohammed known locally as Kaka Hama explained, and that the three stated countries plus the UN would make efforts to “solve the outstanding issues between the Regional government and federal government,” Kaka Hama detailed.
Kaka Hama said the offer was not something “concrete,” and that “the response from President Barzani was that the alternative should be stronger than referendum, and that the issue will be discussed with other Kurdistani parties to take a joint decision.”
Barzani indicated at a pro-referendum rally in Amedi on Friday evening that he refused the offer.
“To this date, we have not received an alternative that can take the place of the referendum,” Barzani said.
The White House demanded that the Kurdish government “call off” the vote, saying that they do not support it, and that it will distract from efforts to defeat ISIS. The statement continued to call on Erbil to hold talks with Baghdad, which the US will “facilitate.”
Kaka Hama said that if the three countries and the UN are serious, they should assign a date for the vote, just like was the case of South Sudan.
Also a commander, Kaka Hama, said of the argument that there will be clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the mainly Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi because the vote is not valid.
“With or without referendum,” we are expecting such a clash, Kaka Hama noted in the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil.
Baghdad opposed the vote calling it unconstitutional, and the Iraqi parliament has empowered the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take “all measures” to cancel the vote.