Multi-party Meeting with President Barzani on Recent Standoff in Disputed Territories

25/11/2012 RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—To discuss a recent standoff between Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi Dijla command, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani convened a meeting with the region’s political parties on Thursday.

Following the meeting, President Barzani said in a statement, “Yesterday’s meeting of Kurdistan’s political parties was the best and the strongest answer for the plans against Kurdistan.” Government officials and political leaders in the autonomous Kurdistan Region were quick in their response to plans by Baghdad to deploy the Dijla Operations Command in the disputed areas south of Kirkuk. “With this unified stance we can foil all the plots against us,” read President Barzani’s statement.

The Dijla Force was formed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki with the aim of “eliminating the remnants of terrorism” in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaddin provinces. But the plan has become the source of much controversy, especially among Kurds who fear it is an attempt by the central government to take control of the disputed areas.

A separate statement by the president’s office said that representatives of the political parties agreed unanimously that the Iraqi government is violating the constitution by dispatching those forces to the disputed territories.

Thursday’s meeting also discussed what the presidential statement called “a serious crisis” threatening the Iraqi government due to “Using the army in political struggles, emergence of totalitarian tendency, ignoring political agreements, lack of social services, and the rise of corruption,”. The movement of the Dijla Forces south of Kirkuk was followed by the deployment of thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the region and a visit by the Kurdistan Region’s Minister of Peshmerga Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa.

The creation of the Dijla Forces by the Iraqi PM and their intention to gain ground in Kirkuk was described by the president’s office as “a dangerous sign” and “the reoccurrence of chauvinist campaigns against the people of Kurdistan and an attempt by Baghdad to export the internal issues of the central government to Kurdistan region.” Earlier in the month, President Barzani said that the Dijla Forces would become a source of “instability” and that the Iraqi government should dissolve it as soon as possible. “We consider that this will cause instability and will not serve the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution because it was founded with intentions and goals against the Kurds, against the democratic process and against coexistence in the areas withheld from Kurdistan [disputed areas].” President Barzani said.

In last week’s meeting, representatives of the Kurdish parties said that, “they will take all the necessary constitutional and political measures,” to ensure the dismantling of the Dijla Forces. Kurdistan’s ruling parties, opposition groups as well as minority blocs agreed on drafting a joint letter to be sent to the Iraqi National Alliance and other political groups in the Iraqi parliament in order to “make clear the unified stance of the people of Kurdistan against the violation of the constitution, the threats of totalitarianism, return of dictatorship and the violation of national partnership.”