Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (R) meeting with then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Erbil, June 9, 2013. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani lashed out at any attempt by Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq, to return to power, vowing to declare independence if he does.
"If Maliki returns to power as prime minister of Iraq, I will declare independence,” said Barzani in an interview with Sharq al-Awsat newspaper in Davos where he attended the annual World Economic Forum last week.
“The moment Maliki returns as prime minister, I will declare independence without consulting with anyone. It does not matter what will happen. We will not stay in an Iraq which will be ruled by Maliki,” Barzani stressed.
Commenting on the Iraqi parliament’s withdrawal of confidence from Hoshiyar Zebari, former finance minister of Iraq and member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), that led to Zebari being ousted, Barzani accused Maliki of undermining Haider al-Abadi so as to return to power.
“It was a move made against Haider al-Abadi and the Mosul operation in order to help Maliki become the prime minister once again.”
The relationship between the Kurdish region and Maliki has been fraught over the years. The Kurdistan Region has been suffering a financial crunch, partly brought on by Baghdad withholding the region’s budget share under Maliki’s direction in mid-2014. Maliki has also made comments unwelcomed by Kurds about the region and its Peshmerga forces who have been fighting ISIS for nearly three years.
In his latest comments, Maliki had said in Tehran earlier this month that the Peshmerga must retreat from areas they brought under control in the course of battle against ISIS in Mosul vicinities.
“Any span of Iraqi territory belongs to this country and the Kurdistan Region must retreat to the borders agreed on in the transitional government [of 2003] and all liberated areas must be dealt with constitutionally.”
“Let Maliki speak for himself,” Barzani responded in a wide-ranging interview with Rudaw last week. “The Peshmerga will not pull out from these areas by Maliki’s words, nor can anyone force the Peshmerga to withdraw from the places where they are supposed to be. The borders are clear, and we have an agreement on this. We have coordination with the Prime Minister Abadi, the Iraqi army and the US. Let people say what they want to say.”
Maliki was forced out of the prime ministerial position in August 2014 when President Fuad Masum asked Abadi to form a new government.
Barzani also told Sharq al-Awsat that the partnership between Erbil and Baghdad has failed. “I have frankly told the political leaders of Baghdad that the Iraqis failed in having an authentic partnership, therefore it is better if we become two neighbors.”
Barzani made similar comments in his interview with Rudaw, saying that if diplomatic efforts between Erbil and Baghdad fail, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will make moves toward independence.
“We will not give up on the independence process for the Kurdistan Region," Barzani said.