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Iraqi PM Asks Kurdish Parties to Visit Baghdad for Talks on Referendum

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that he will officially invite Kurdish parties to the capital to hold talks over the issue of their planned referendum, claiming that most of the Kurdish leaders he talked to believe that there is a "problem" in implementing the referendum in the fall.

He also said that some of Iraq's neighboring countries where there is a Kurdish population consider the issue "as a matter of their national security."

"God willing, I will extend officially an invitation to the Kurdish parties represented in the Iraqi parliament, or the [Kurdistan] Region parliament, to talks in Baghdad on this issue," Abadi said, calling for a "road map" to resolve the outstanding issues in between them.

Commenting on the issue of the referendum, PM Abadi said that the Kurdish people have the right to aspire to have their own homeland. But when it comes to taking steps to implementing "this aspiration, or "this dream" the Kurds should know that they share with the rest of Iraq one country, a constitution that the Iraqis, including the Kurds, have voted for, and a federal parliament and government.

"I believe the referendum at this time is unsuccessful, not correct. Despite my respect to the aspirations of the Kurdish brothers," Abadi said as he mentioned that ISIS is still present in different parts of the country, such as Tal Afar, west of Mosul, and Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk.

He admitted that there are problems between Baghdad and Erbil, mainly over oil revenues, border customs, and disputed territories, areas claimed by both governments and called otherwise by Erbil as Kurdistani areas.

"Going to the referendum for independence may complicate the problems, it does not solve it, not a solution," Abadi said.

He said that the referendum is not one solution to all problems between the two governments, or to the internal problem in Erbil.

He singled out the issue of the Kurdistan parliament that has not convened since 2015 as one of the problems that the referendum cannot solve.

"Most of the [Kurdish] political leaders I talked to say that there is a problem in implementing that decision, maybe we reach a dead end," Abadi said, accusing Kurdish leaders of not being "honest" with their own people.

He said the Kurdish leaders have to tell their own people, despite their wishes for statehood, that the realities on the ground are different, including an opposition to the Kurdish quest by the neighboring countries who have a significant Kurdish population.

"You know that the presence of Kurds is not only in Iraq. there is the presence of Kurds in Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and each of these countries believe that it concerns them because it will affect their Kurdish citizens who are within their borders, and part of these countries consider it a matter of their national security. So how would they react?"

He called on the Kurdistan Region for further cooperation on other issues, just as Erbil and Baghdad joined armies and launched a military offensive against the ISIS militants in Mosul, backed by the US-led anti-ISIS global coalition.

The Kurdish government and the majority of Kurdish parties last week set September 25 for a referendum on independence. Kurdish leaders have said that declaring independence though remains an eventual goal will not come immediately after a yes-vote.

The main two ruling parties in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced their plans Tuesday to reactivate the parliament that has not convened since October 2015 due to the rising tensions between the KDP who leads the Kurdish government and the Gorran movement. However on Wednesday the Change Movement (Gorran), the region's second-largest party, announced it was refusing the offer to reactivate the parliament.


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