MESOP : MALIKI IN KURDISTAN – Despite tensions Maliki visits Kurdistan

26.07.2014 – Hawar Abdulrazaq – BasNews, Suliaymania – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to make a surprise visit to Suliaymaniyah on Saturday to meet with former Iraqi President and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani.According to PUK sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Maliki flew in to Sulaymaniyah airport

to welcome back Talabani after 18 months in Germany, where he was recovering from a stroke he suffered in December 2012. On Saturday security in Sulaymaniyah was on high alert, patrolling the roads ahead of Maliki’s arrival, who has been under great pressure from Iraqi and Kurdish parties including Kurds, to leave his post and not run for a third term. The PUK source said the reason behind the PM’s unannounced visit was to avoid potential negative reactions as a result of it.Maliki and the Kurds of Iraq have had fraught relations, exacerbated by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) international oil sales, which came as a result of Baghdad’s withholding of the Kurdish share of the federal budget.

Kurdish lawmaker, Fursat Sufi told BasNews that the visit was to be expected, particularly since it is a social visit as opposed to a diplomatic one.

“As PUK officials said last week, they would welcome Maliki in Kurdistan, because it’s a social visit, so it’s normal for Maliki to visit the Kurdistan Region and for Kurdish officials to receive him, if it was political visit then I would have expected a reaction from the Kurdish people,” said Sufi.There have been calls for protests if Maliki were to visit Kurdistan, however PUK senior official Mala Bakhtiyar said last week that despite the problems between the Kurds and Maliki, they would welcome him because of the nature of the visit. Earlier this month, Maliki accused Kurdistan of becoming the base of terrorist and charged Kurdish authorities of providing safe heaven for terrorists.