Some Kurdish people take part in a demonstration at Erbil International Airport, after the central government ordered the indefinite halt to all foreign flights to and from Kurdistan Region on September 29, 2017. Photo:AFP / Safin Hamed
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi is leading efforts to bring Erbil and Baghdad to the negotiating table, calling on the United Nations to become directly involved.
Allawi has called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to accept an initiative he has presented to both governments to solve the outstanding issues between them. Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has already agreed to discuss the initiative that stipulates “the doors should be open for dialogue without any preconditions from any side,” Allawi said in a statement Friday.
The offer to mediate comes as the Iraqi government is exerting mounting pressure on the Kurdistan Region to cancel the outcome of the independence referendum that saw over 92 percent vote to leave Iraq.
Allawi called on the United Nations to sponsor the talks and requested the UN Secretary-General send an envoy to help with the dialogue process that Allawi said should be conducted within the framework of Iraq’s constitution.
On Thursday, Allawi published a letter he had received from President Barzani regarding the initiative.
In the letter Barzani reiterated the need for talks and the prevention of any groups or parties from escalating the situation. He said the Kurdistan Region is ready for talks and negotiations on all outstanding issues with Iraq as two brother nations.
“We reaffirmed both before the referendum and the day after holding it, that the referendum does not mean declaring independence straight away, but that we are prepared to wait for two years during which we can communicate through an extended constructive dialogue to discuss all issues and topics that can make us two partners in building a future for our two nations, without imposing de facto on any area," the letter read.
Allawi’s initiative also called on the two sides to stop their media campaign against one another, halt measures that may worsen the situation, and for the two sides to do everything they can to stop “a military confrontation in the disputed areas, foremost in Kirkuk province.”
He also stipulated that there should not be any room left for the intervention of foreign countries in the internal affairs of Iraq.
Earlier in the day, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani rejected the outcome of the independence vote, while calling on both Iraq and Kurdistan to abide by the constitution.
PM Abadi welcomed Sistani’s stance, saying this shows his office has support from Iraq’s highest Shiite authority to stop the separation of Kurdistan from Iraq.
Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, also the head of the ruling Dawa party, also welcomed Sistani's statement. He said talks should be held between the two sides without any preconditions. But he added his demand that the Kurdistan Region cancel the vote in order to give relations between Baghdad and Erbil a fresh start.
Barzani said on Tuesday, a day after a majority voted for independence, that the Kurdistan government has got a mandate to enter serious talks with Baghdad, the goal of which is for the two sides to become “two good neighbours.”
The Kurdistan government has said they were pushed to stage the independence referendum after the central government violated at least one third of the Iraqi constitution, including Article 140 that concerns the fate of the disputed or Kurdistani areas such as the oil-rich and multi-ethnic Kirkuk province.
The Iraqi government has issued a number of measures against the vote while calling on Erbil to cancel the referendum mandate, including a ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region that came into effect on Friday evening.