MPs Upbeat on KRG's Request for Dialogue With Baghdad

MPs Upbeat on KRG's Request for Dialogue With BaghdadMPs Upbeat on KRG's Request for Dialogue With Baghdad

Several parliamentarians expressed optimism about the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government's Monday request for dialogue with Baghdad to settle differences based on the Iraqi Constitution. Tensions have been high between Erbil and Baghdad since late September, when KRG held a general poll on secession from Iraq. The vote was roundly rejected by the federal government and neighboring Iran and Turkey, and drew widespread criticism from the international community. Long-time KRG president Masoud Barzani decided late last month to give up his post, as his secession push turned out to be a grave miscalculation. Since then, Masoud's nephew, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has been running the autonomous region.

Nechirvan, who announced on Monday he wants to resolve the issues between the region and Baghdad through dialogue and according to the Iraqi Constitution, has been hailed as a peace broker and pragmatic leader.

The KRG premier also expressed Erbil's readiness to restore relations with Turkey and Iran. Lawmaker Qasem Jasemi hailed Nechirvan's statements as "positive", saying he is pleased that Kurdish officials have decided to change tack. Speaking to ICANA, Jasemi said the KRG-organized poll was doomed from the very beginning and it could have triggered instability in the region. "This is a wise decision as it heads off a military conflict," he said. The lawmaker said differences between the two governments have no military solution, and the two should engage in talks as soon as possible.

  On Right Track  

Jalal Mirzaei echoed Jasemi's stance, saying Barzani's statements were "a step on the right track".

The lawmaker said the remarks were "logical" and in line with interests of the Iraqi nation, particularly the country's unity and territorial integrity.

Masoud's resignation came after the Iraqi Army wrest back control of the oil-rich Kirkuk and some other Kurdish-held areas outside the autonomous region last month. Observers believe Barzani had counted on controlling the oil wealth of Kirkuk for running his separate state.

Kirkuk fell to Kurdish control after the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group swept across northern Iraq in a 2014 surprise attack and the Iraqi Army units stationed there crumbled.

The Baghdad government had long insisted that the Kurds pull out of the territories they had overrun, but its repeated demands had fallen on deaf ears in Erbil. Separately, the Iraqi Ministry of Finance decided to reduce the budget share of the autonomous region in the 2018 federal budget from 17% to 12%.

The reduction, which occurs for the first time since 2005, would increase financial pressure on the embattled KRG.

Nechirvan said on Monday the KRG is ready to hand over oil wells, airports, border crossings and all revenues to Baghdad if Iraq's federal government restores the Kurdish region's share of the national budget to 17%.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said Nechirvan's statements have prepared the ground for finding a way out of the conflict.

The lawmaker said it is time for Baghdad and Erbil to enter into negotiations to settle differences, as continuation of the current path could have "unpleasant consequences".

Falahatpisheh said the Iraqi people should not pay the price for the "badly thought-out decision" of Masoud Barzani and reducing the region's budget would not be good news for Iraqis.

"A gap in the economic development of Kurdish territory would be against the interests of Iraq," he said.

Baghdad has demanded the Iraqi Kurdish leadership annul the results of the referendum vote. Last month, it rejected a KRG offer to "freeze" the referendum to allow negotiations with Baghdad.

Iraq's Supreme Federal Court ruled on Monday that no governorate or region can secede from Iraq.

The ruling was a response to a request from the central government in Baghdad to put an end to any "wrong misinterpretation" of the constitution and assert the unity of Iraq, a court spokesman said.

Soon afterwards, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged the Kurdish authorities to abide by the court's decision.

"We call on the region to clearly state its commitment to non-separation or independence from Iraq," he said in a statement.

The KRG has yet to react to the demand.


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