Baghdad-KRG Talks Should Ensure Iraq’s Integrity

Baghdad-KRG Talks Should Ensure Iraq’s Integrity  Baghdad-KRG Talks Should Ensure Iraq’s Integrity

The Baghdad government should seek assurances from the Kurdistan Regional Government to commit itself to upholding Iraq's territorial integrity before any bilateral talks to settle a dispute over a recent Kurdish secession vote, a lawmaker said.

"Iraq should close the door to dialogue until the Kurdistan region agrees to respect the integrity of Iraq," Jabbar Kouchakinejad said in an interview with ICANA on Saturday.

"Any discussion on disintegrating Iraq is not in the interest of the country. Iraq is an integrated country and the secession of Kurdistan is likely to prompt other Iraqi regions to raise separatist demands," he added.

The Iraqi Kurdistan region carried through a controversial plan to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25 last year, despite warnings from the central government, the international community and Iraq's neighbors, especially Turkey and Iran.

Baghdad responded to the vote by imposing a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.

On Oct. 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start, Press TV reported.

"The KRG must first commit to Iraq's unity. The local authorities in the [Kurdistan] region … must accept the sovereign authority of the federal government on … oil exports, [as well as] security and border protection, including land and air entry points," the unnamed Iraqi official said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already demanded the annulment of the referendum.

"We won't accept anything but its cancelation and the respect of the constitution," he said in a statement on Oct. 26 during a visit to Tehran.

Iraqi Kurdistan is suffering from financial and economic hardships, which have been exacerbated following the independence push.

On Dec. 19, Kurdish security forces fatally shot five protestors during clashes over unpaid salaries and corruption.

Asayesh forces opened fire at a group of protestors in the town of Ranya, which is a part of the Sulaymaniyah province, after the latter stormed and set ablaze the office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Frustration over unpaid salaries to teachers and other civil servants, in addition to the deterioration of basic services and widespread corruption have been described as the main reasons behind mass protests in the Kurdistan region.

The semi-autonomous region has disagreements with the central government in Baghdad over distribution of crude oil revenues extracted from the northern oilfields.


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