ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The three Kurdish opposition parties who met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, among others, earlier this week have defended their visit to the capital of Iraq independent of the KRG, citing lack of interest to form an interim government.
The Change Movement (Gorran), the Islamic Group (Komal), and Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) met with a number of Iraqi officials including PM Abadi and Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, the first Kurdish delegation to visit Baghdad since the Iraq-opposed Kurdish referendum.
The delegation discussed the strained relationship between Erbil and Baghdad following an Iraqi military incursion in mid-October triggered by the Kurdish vote. They also discussed disputes between the two governments over KRG’s share of the federal budget and the salaries of the state employees cut since early-2014.
“The visit of the delegation took place after we pushed hard to form an interim government for the purpose of dialogue with the federal government for solving the financial issues of the people of Kurdistan and the outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad on the on the basis of the constitution, but KRG officials continued business as usual,” the delegation said in a statement published on Saturday after their visit to Baghdad.
It repeated PM Abadi announcement that he was willing to pay the salaries of KRG’s employees after they are audited. Gorran and Komal withdrew from the KRG coalition government in December after the ruling parties, notably the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, refused their call to form an interim cabinet to enter talks with Baghdad, and prepare for elections.
Omar Sayid Ali, Goran’s leader, met with the US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and US Consul General to Erbil Ken Gross on Thursday, when Ali said that the KDP and PUK had failed in governing the Kurdistan Region and they were the “alternative.” The US State Department has welcomed the visit of the Kurdish opposition parties to Baghdad, adding that it showed that Iraqi and Kurdish officials do not need a mediator to host anticipated talks between the two governments.
Kurdish PM Nechirvan Barzani has consistently called for talks between Baghdad and Erbil, but PM Abadi is yet to commit to talks without preconditions. In an official letter penned to Barzani on Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the two sides to start a “political dialogue” based on the Iraqi constitution. Erbil has long said that it is ready for open dialogue with the Iraqi government in light of the constitution. It has respected a number of rulings from an Iraqi Federal Court that in effect ruled the independence referendum as null and void.
Abadi said late last month that political dialogue may take place at a later date after the present technical talks which are focused on salaries for KRG state employees. Saad al-Hadithi, the spokesperson for the Iraqi government, has said that the KRG must nullify the vote for independence before talks can begin.