Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has said that his government is ready to begin talks with Baghdad on the basis of the Iraqi constitution. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Continued Iraqi military operations are hindering efforts to start dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told reporters after heading a government meeting on the mass civilian displacement from Kirkuk and other disputed areas.
His comments came as Kurdistan’s Security Council issued warned that Iraqi forces were building up on the Kurdistan Region borders.
Kurds are still reeling from last week’s loss of the disputed areas, which were taken over by Iraqi forces. At least two political parties have called for the regional government to be dissolved and for the president and vice president to resign.
PM Barzani said the Kurdish people have been through worse times and he is hopeful they will rise again.
He said his government welcomes calls for a peaceful resolution to the crisis that have come from the international community, influential cleric Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. There is, however, no schedule yet to send a delegation to Baghdad, he said.
“If we hear from Baghdad, we are in fact ready to send a delegation to have serious talks, to open a new page, to have serious meetings, and to resolve all the problems in the framework of the Iraq constitution in a peaceful way,” PM Barzani said.
“The biggest problem is that their military operations are continuing in many places. Unfortunately continued military operations will both affect the stability of these areas and will definitely make problems for this process that is to happen – dialogue.”
The Iraqi PM just completed a regional tour that took him to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt where he received messages of support for the protection of a united Iraq, a blow to Kurdish independence aspirations after 92.7 percent of voters supported separation from Iraq in last week’s referendum.
PM Abadi, who is expected to visit Turkey this week, has said that the Kurdish referendum is dead.
Asked about the call from Gorran, Kurdistan’s second-largest party, to dissolve the government and for President Masoud Barzani to leave his office, PM Barzani said they are open to listening to the concerns of Gorran and other parties, but stressed that the current government is inclusive.
He said that President Barzani has never denied that his term, which expired in 2013, in office is over and has vowed that he will not run for office again.
He said the president, who is his uncle, will respect the region’s laws and hinted that the reasons for keeping the president in office beyond his term no longer exist, mainly the war against ISIS.
The Kurdistan Region’s election commission has stopped preparations for parliamentary and presidential elections set for November 1 because of a lack of candidates and the unstable situation. The parliament is expected to convene this week to discuss the elections, as well as confrontations between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in the disputed areas.
Asked about sentiments among Kurds that the loss of Kirkuk has no parallel in the nation’s century-long quest for independence, PM Barzani expressed faith in Kurds’ resiliency.
“I believe that Kurds had seen even worse situations that we experienced and survived. What is important is how we will survive this situation. What is important now is the unity of the Kurdistani house,” he said.
Unity is needed now more than ever to fight those who plot to divide Kurds, he said, stressing that the blame game between Kurdish political parties will not matter.
“It is not time for anyone to trade blame. It is time for unity,” he said, leaving it to historians to assess what went wrong last week.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday at a joint press conference in Moscow with his Iraqi counterpart that Russia would continue business and diplomatic ties with the Kurdistan Region, but in coordination with Baghdad.
PM Barzani welcomed Lavrov’s remarks, but asserted that the Kurdistan Region is entitled to sign oil and gas contracts with foreign companies. Such business deals “do not have anything with politics,” he said.
Asked about the international support, PM Barzani said with a smile that every country has expressed in words that they support solving problems in light of the Iraqi constitution. “We have to see in the future how that unfolds in practice,” Barzani said.
Kurdistani parties excluding Gorran and Komal have commissioned the government to hold talks with Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government has welcomed in particular an initiative from the United States that calls for a ceasefire, talks to begin between the two governments, and resolving the disputed territories as per the Iraqi constitution.