Maliki, Talabani to Discuss Tensions at Meeting

09/12/2012 RUDAW – BAGHDAD, Iraq – Amid a tense stand-off between Erbil and Baghdad over troop deployments in disputed territories, Iraq’s Kurdish president and Arab prime minister are expected to meet this week to discuss the crisis, a senior official said.

Fuad Hussein, chief of staff at President Jalal Talabani’s office, said that the meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would take place on Monday. According to a news report on PUKmedia, the mouthpiece of Talabani’s party, the two have already discussed the current tensions by telephone. “The telephone communication between Talabani and Maliki was important in easing the tensions and finding a common ground for a solution,” PUKmedia wrote.

The weeks-old tensions were ignited after Maliki deployed his newly-formed and controversial Dijla forces into disputed northern territories that are also claimed by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, which dispatched thousands of its own Peshmerga fighters into the areas.

Talabani returned to Baghdad last week, after quitting the capital and spending two weeks at his headquarters in Sulaimani in protest to Maliki’s actions and his refusal to engage in a proposed national dialogue. Maliki has reportedly called on the ministries of defense and interior to draw a plan to resolve the tensions in the disputed territories. The premier’s office issued a statement, saying: “Maliki has requested to meet with the defense and interior ministries in order to resolve the issue of the disputed territories.”

Also,  last week the Iraqi premier suggested two points to end the military stand-off.  He said that first the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces must form joint checkpoints in the disputed territories, and second that the regions must be run by their own people. Meanwhile, members of Maliki’s State of Law Coalition have been angered over an alleged letter sent by Iraq’s deputy parliament speaker Arif Tayfur to US President Barack Obama, which local media in Baghdad said had asked Obama “to prevent the Iraqi army from using US weapons against the Kurds.” Ali Shala, an MP from the State of Law Coalition said that Tayfur’s letter, “Will have a negative impact on relations among Iraq’s political factions.” Shala said that Maliki had assured him that he would not use weapons against the Kurds. Shala also dismissed claims that the Iraqi government is reinforcing troops in the disputed territories, and accused Kurdish authorities of dispatching Peshmerga forces into the areas and placing them on alert against the Iraqi army.