ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani has met with Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri in Erbil on Sunday, the first meeting between Erbil and Baghdad since Kurdistan’s independence referendum.
While statements from the offices of the two expressed some positivity about moving forward, comments out of Baghdad indicate Jabouri did not have the full backing of the Iraqi parliament for his visit.
The two leaders reiterated stressed the need to protect stability and security while avoiding tensions between their governments, according to a statement from the Kurdistan presidency.
They also reaffirmed the need to calm the political situation, taking the “principle of dialogue with an open agenda,” the statement read, adding that all sides have to take part in talks to seek a resolution for the problems between Erbil and Baghdad.
Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to President Barzani, said that Erbil informed Jabouri that the Kurdish government is ready for dialogue with Baghdad “without preconditions from any side in a defined time frame.”
A statement from the office of the Iraqi speaker said that his visit was to help rebuild the strained relations between Erbil and Baghdad that have reached a “dangerous” level to the point that regional countries have begun to interfere, something he said “threatens the security and stability of Iraq as a state.”
The speaker emphasized his position that the unity of Iraq should be preserved and his discussions with Barzani focused on how to find a way to “get over what happened, especially in the disputed areas,” in the context of the Iraqi constitution and “the unity of federal Iraq.”
According to Jabouri, President Barzani has his own view on the referendum and the path forward, which the parliament speaker said must be discussed with the Iraqi government, parliament, and parties to come up with a vision that best serves the interest of Iraq and heals the country’s problems.
Jabouri does not appear to have the backing of his parliament, however. Humam Hamoudi, deputy speaker, said in a statement published on the parliament’s website that the meeting in Erbil was “personal” and was not in any shape or form related to the business of the parliament.
Hamoudi stated he had advised the speaker against making the visit since it will not change Barzani’s conviction with regard to the “ill-fated” referendum. Jabouri’s visit goes against the direction of the Iraqi parliament that took a number of measures against the Kurdistan Region after the referendum, Hamoudi stated.
The Iraqi parliament and government have called on the Kurdistan government to cancel the results of the independence referendum held on September 25 before any talks are held between Erbil and Baghdad.
The parliament passed a number of punitive measures that mainly affect the Kurdish land and air entry points in response to the vote that Baghdad calls “unconstitutional.” The Kurdish government has called such measures “collective punishment.”
When laying a wreath of flowers on the tomb of the late former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Saturday, President Barzani was asked by reporters about the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. He said they have always called for dialogue to resolve outstanding issues with the government in Baghdad.
“We hope that this will become an opportunity for them [Iraqi officials] to reconsider their decisions,” Barzani said.
Two of Iraq’s three vice presidents, following a meeting with Barzani on Saturday, expressed support for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to find a resolution to the stalemate that has emerged following the disputed referendum. They have also expressed support for lifting punitive measures imposed by the central government in response to the vote.
Saad al-Hadithi, spokesperson for the office of the Iraqi prime minister, said Sunday that the outcome of the meeting between President Barzani and the Iraqi VPs “does not necessarily reflect the position of the Iraqi government,” adding that Baghdad’s position is well reflected in the decisions passed by the office of the prime minister, the Iraqi Supreme Court, and the Iraqi parliament, all of whom rejected the Kurdish referendum held on September 25.
The issue was first raised by Speaker Jabouri, together with the Shiite National Alliance, the largest faction in the parliament.
The letter called for stripping immunity from those Kurdish MPs involved in the vote and going so far as putting them on trial.