Erbil-Baghdad Meeting Eases Months of Explosive Tensions
“MALIKI IS ONLY BUYING TIME”
by HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, RUDAW: – A face-to-face meeting between the Kurdish and Iraqi prime ministers last week appears to have eased some of the tensions between Baghdad and Erbil.
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the two, despite serious disputes and months of sharp verbal exchanges, managed to sign a seven-point agreement dealing with their most pressing differences.
The Iraqi premier agreed to: Compensate victims of Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign in Kurdistan; form a joint security committee for disputed territories that are claimed by both sides; re-draw provincial boundaries tampered with by the former regime; fairly reassess Iraq’s 2013 budget; form a committee to oversee the revenue sharing legislation.
Farhad Atroushi, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament said that PM Barzani had met with all political groups prior to his meeting with Maliki. “PM Barzani also visited Iran and met with Falih Fayaz and Tariq Najim, two of Maliki’s representatives,” Atroushi said. But an official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the joint partner in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) with Barzani’s own Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said his party had been kept in the dark about the meeting.
The latest deal is similar to another, 19-point agreement, Maliki signed with the Kurds in 2010, in order to gain the Kurdish vote that allowed him to remain in power. “The PUK knows nothing of the details of the meeting and Barzani hasn’t told us anything about it,” the official told Rudaw on condition of anonymity. Atroushi said Maliki had shown some hesitation before signing the agreement, which has deflated months of tensions between Baghdad and Erbil that some had feared could explode into a Kurdish-Arab conflict.
“After discussing all the points, Maliki didn’t want to sign the deal,” Atroushi said. “Only after Barzani said that he didn’t mind referring it to the Kurdistan Region president for endorsement, did Maliki agree to attach his signature,” he added.
The latest deal is similar to another, 19-point agreement, Maliki signed with the Kurds in 2010, in order to gain the Kurdish vote that allowed him to remain in power. At the time, Maliki’s Shiite coalition had lost to the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc, but a deal with the Kurds reinstated him as prime minister for a second term. Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, who attended the talks in Baghdad, said that the delegates still remain unsure of Maliki’s commitment to the deal. “We will wait and see Maliki’s actions,” he said. “We will walk along if we know he is serious, otherwise we cannot continue with him.”
Karim said that a deadline should be set for the implementation the agreement, noting that its most important clause is about this year’s disputed budget, which was bulldozed through the Iraqi parliament despite KRG objections to its annual share from the central government.
Maliki is only buying himself time and he will not honor any agreement,
The latest agreement buys Maliki some breathing room, taking off some of the pressure in his rows with the Kurds, at a time when he is facing anti-government protests and serious opposition in the country’s Sunni provinces.
“Maliki is only buying himself time and he will not honor any agreement,” opined Adil Abdullah, a Kurdish MP in Baghdad. He said that, since Maliki has only months left before his current term as prime minister expires, it would have been wiser for the Kurdish delegation to have pushed for implementation of the 2010 agreement, instead of signing yet a new deal.
For their part, Kurdistan’s opposition groups showed disinterest in what transpired between Maliki and Barzani. “The visit of the Kurdish delegation to Baghdad was only about the oil companies and nothing else,” said Muhammad Tofiq Rahim, public relations officer of the Change Movement (Gorran). Atroushi dismissed the opposition’s efforts to belittle the importance of the meeting, and called it another political victory for the Kurds. “No one believed that Barzani would achieve what he did by going to Baghdad,” he said.