Leaders of political parties in Kurdistan concluded a meeting with President Massoud Barzani on Saturday in which they seem to have drawn a plan for how to deal with the central government and expedite the formation of a new cabinet in Erbil.
According to Rebwar Sayid Gul, a senior leader of the Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) who attended the meeting, the Kurdish leaders were united in their opposition to Nouri al-Maliki’s third term as Iraq’s prime minister.
“The leaders have decided that if Maliki is nominated for a third term, the Kurds will hold a referendum on independence and separation from Iraq,” Sayid Gul told Rudaw.
Sayid Gul said that the referendum will also include the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Region in the north and the rest of Iraq.
Another highlight of the meeting under President Barzani was that Iraq’s presidency should remain in the hands of the Kurds.
The Iraqi constitution gives the Kurds the right of participation in the Iraqi government and parliament. In 2005, Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was elected Iraq’s president.
In the past two weeks members of Maliki’s State of Law coalition had reached out to the Kurds with conciliatory notes, hoping to draw them into the Iraqi government. But the Kurds, particularly the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) have deep suspicions about the Iraqi prime minister, judging from his actions in the past four years.
Hence in Saturday’s meeting the leaders agreed on setting up a special committee for negotiations with Baghdad with a long list of preconditions.
“The committee will talk to all Iraqi factions interested in negotiations, for the sake of reaching an agreement that would improve Iraq’s situation and end tensions and troubles caused by wrong policies of marginalization,” said a joint statement by eight Kurdish parties following their gathering.
This sounds like rebuffing Maliki’s bloc who wished to brush aside other Arab parties and monopolize all talks with the Kurds.
The joint statement said that Kurdish parties will “Approach Baghdad with one voice and seek a greater role for the Kurds in Iraq.”
Meanwhile eight months of talks between Kurdish parties on forming the new cabinet of government in Erbil also seem to be drawing to a close, with the PUK agreeing to fill the post of deputy prime minister.
At the end of a meeting between PUK leaders and the Islamic League (Komal), Mala Bakhtyar, a senior PUK leader said that his party will announce the name of its candidate for the post in the next two days.
According to PUK official Rebaz Birkoti, the son of party leader Qubad Talabani is his party’s preferred choice for the post of deputy prime minister.