BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Kurdistan referendum delegation in Baghdad has taken a softer line when they met with Iraq’s ruling Shiite National Alliance on Wednesday, saying they are prepared to delay the referendum “for a short time” if Baghdad, under the auspices of the international community, promises to set another date for the referendum, a member of the delegation told Rudaw Thursday.
The source who asked not to be named told Rudaw that there is “a small chance” that the Kurdistan Region would agree to postpone the referendum until after the Iraqi elections if Baghdad gives guarantees to give the go ahead for the referendum at a later date.
The guarantee should come “in writing” and be observed by the United Nations and the United States, the source explained.
A named member of the delegation told Rudaw Thursday that the decision to postpone the vote lies with the High Referendum Council headed by President Masoud Barzani.
The delegation is expected to meet once again this weekend with the National Alliance and resume negotiations.
Each side is preparing their stances between now and the meeting later this week, the source said, also confirmed by Romio Hakari, another member of the delegation, adding that Baghdad should also agree to implement a number of articles of the Iraqi constitution which the Kurdistan Region say have been violated by Baghdad, chief among them Article 140, and the budget cut.
Hakari, who is a Christian member of the delegation, told Rudaw on Thursday that the Alliance has promised to solve all outstanding issues between the two governments.
“They emphasized that they are ready to solve all the reasons that pushed [Erbil] to make a decision to hold the referendum, so that there is no need to hold the referendum,” Hakarai said about the Shiite Alliance whom he said are the ones who undertake decisions in Baghdad.
He said the Kurdistani delegation will “prepare a timeline for many of the problems, so that [solving] the problems would not take a long time — many years as it was the case.”
He said in addition to the scheduled meeting this week, there will be “many meetings” to come between the Alliance and Erbil.
Asked whether the Kurdistan Region is prepared to postpone the referendum for a short period of time if all problems between the two governments resolved, Hakari said that it is his personal opinion that in that case it is better to postpone the vote “for a period of time.” He added though that the decision to postpone the vote lies with the High Referendum Council back in Erbil.
Erbil has prepared a lengthy report that it claims proves Iraq violated about 50 articles of the Iraqi constitution.
Saadi Ahmad Pira, a member of the delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening before their meeting with the National Alliance that it would be a “very important” meeting with regard to the referendum talks in Baghdad.
He said that all members of the Alliance, which also includes Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Dawa party, will attend the meeting. Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, who is the former prime minister, is the head of the Dawa party.
The delegation visited Baghdad on Monday, and plans to stay there until next Monday. They have met with Iraqi and foreign officials in the Iraqi capital, including with members of the Alliance separately.
PM Abadi, VP Maliki, and Iraq’s parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, among others, have said that any step taken by the Kurdistan Region, including the referendum, should have a constitutional backing
Baghdad calls the referendum unconstitutional, unilateral and it does not recognize the results.
“We did not agree to postpone the referendum. We find it necessary to hold the referendum on its time,” Shaweys added.
The delegation met with Abadi on Monday.
The PM said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday that the current Iraqi “borders are not sacred,” but added that any changes should come through mutual agreement.
“You want to redraw the borders? Then let’s have an understanding about it. It cannot be done unilaterally,” he added.
He said the discussion between the two sides fell into the area of “how can we all live in one, united Iraq,” something the head of the Kurdistani delegation denied.
Shaweys said that the delegation did “not emphasize the territorial integrity of Iraq.”
Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, who has just returned from a visit to the United States, told Rudaw on Wednesday that the United States wants the referendum to be postponed because they think if the Kurdistan Region takes part in the Iraqi general elections next year, it will increase the chances of Abadi winning a second term in office. He said the United States believes with Abadi in power, Iran would have less influence in the country.