ERBIL, Kurdistan Region
The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani said French President Emmanuel will be informing them “in the next one or two days” about the latest efforts he has started to bring Erbil and Baghdad closer.
“We welcomed and took France’s initiative very seriously,” said Barzani speaking at a weekly press conference. “We have not yet been informed regarding the next phase…but they will inform us in the next one or two days,” Barzani said of the outcome of their meetings with Macron and his attempts toward Erbil-Baghdad talks.
US President Donald Trump and French President Macron agreed in a phone call on Monday night for the need for Erbil and Baghdad to resolve their issues through dialogue.
“President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Emmanuel Macron of France. The presidents agreed on the need for the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve their differences through dialogue,” read a statement issued by the White House on Monday.
Following the Saturday meeting with Barzani, Macron set the framework for a “national dialogue” between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments after September’s Kurdish independence vote. He said that the dialogue, in light of the Iraqi constitution, must begin at the earliest possible time.
Barzani said in his meeting with Macron, they reiterated that the Kurdistan Region was “committed to Iraq’s territorial integrity and to turning to the constitution as a [source] to resolve the issues.”
“We emphasized that Erbil-Baghdad problems have to be resolved through the constitution,” Barzani said.
Barzani dismissed claims that there were “some sort of technical talks with Baghdad” adding “there were no talks with Baghdad at all until now.”
Iraq has so far refused to commit to unconditional negotiations with the KRG despite Erbil offering to freeze the results of the Kurdish vote and respecting a ruling from an Iraqi Federal Court that decided the Iraqi constitution does not allow secession.
“But as I have said it many times and I am reiterating it today again, we are ready to talk to Baghdad,” Barzani added. “But it is Baghdad that is not ready.”
He said the KRG also showed willingness to respect the Iraqi Federal Court’s decisions with respect to the unity of Iraq and referendum.
After the meeting Macron also made a phone call to Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stressing his country’s unwavering stance on the territorial integrity of Iraq and urging dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad to mend their ties.
Barzani said Baghdad’s harsh comments against the Region were not related to the referendum but that “this is Baghdad’s recent politics. Now they believe an opportunity is presented to them to ruin the Kurdistan Region’s political entity — this is their politics.”
Asked about choosing Turkey to use to fly to Europe, Barzani said “we would be pleased to go through Iraq, but we could not due to the embargo Baghdad has imposed” on the Region’s airports.
Speaking of Kurdistan Region-Turkey relations, Barzani summarized their relations with Ankara as good and “whenever it is necessary, we could see each other and God willing it will become more normalized in the near future.”
Iran, as a neighboring country, strongly showed opposition to the KRG’s independence referendum and eventually decided to close the Parvezkhan and Bashmakh border crossings.
Commenting on the closures by Iran, Barzani hoped they would be opened soon because “it favors no side.”
“We believe there is now no excuse to close borders and believe the continued closure of the borders does not serve and benefit any side,” he added.
Barzani slammed reported joint military deployments of Iraqi and coalition forces in the disputed areas, notably in the Kirkuk region, saying the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces also should be included there as these areas are still defined as disputed territories.
“We believe the Iraqi, [coalition] and Peshmerga should forces be present in these areas because they are disputed territories” between Erbil and Baghdad.
The Iraqi military on Thursday denied the deployment of US forces to the K-1 military base near Kirkuk after local Kurdish reports suggested the US recently had stationed troops at the base.
The US-led Coalition has not denied, nor confirmed the deployment.
In the wake of the military confrontations between Peshmerga and Iraqi armed forces in Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces, several key roads have been blocked, including the Erbil-Kirkuk road, Makhmour road, and the Kurdistan Region-Mosul city roads.
“It was a security subject until now. But we think now we could certainly open these roads connected with Makhmour, Mosul and Kirkuk,” Barzani said.
In parts of his speech Barzani described the Iraqi 2018 budget draft bill as “very bad.” Barzani praised the “unanimity of the Kurdish blocs” in Iraq against the draft.
KRG officials have long complained that Baghdad previously never sent Erbil its full 17 percent budget share in the past, but this is the first time to officially reduce the share by law since the constitution was passed in 2005.
The governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have made counter accusations over the 2018 budget, with Baghdad initially allocating a mere 12.6 percent while the KRG says it is entitled to 17 percent as has been the case since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Concerning the displacement of more than a 100,000 people from Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu in the wake of the October 16 events, Barzani denounced the UN as “reckless” due to its inaction and trying to “dwindle” the calamities the affected people of the Region suffered at the hands of Iran-backed Shiite militias.
“We are asking the international community to reach out to the IDPs,” Barzani urged.
He urged the multiple international organizations and rights groups such as Amnesty International to open a special investigation for the violations and abuses allegedly done by the Shiite militias “of particularly in Tuz Khurmatu.”
KRG awaits France’s push for Baghdad-Erbil dialogue