SAADI PIRA – Senior PUK Official: Strategic Agreement is Needed Now More than Ever

30/09/2012  By HEVIDAR AHMED – RUDAW – In this interview, Saadi Ahmad Pira, a political bureau member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), speaks to Rudaw about Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s return to the Kurdistan Region.

Rudaw: Recent events indicate that the PUK and KDP disagree on many things. Does the PUK have issues with the KDP?

Saadi Pira: The PUK and KDP have been ruling Kurdistan for many years in light of the strategic agreement between the two parties. Sometimes, the governing system faces issues and we must think of solutions. Even though we have a strategic agreement, we are still two different parties. However, we inform one another prior to making official decisions.

People who try to cause issues are party members looking for a reaction from the other side. The collaboration between the PUK and KDP has a direct effect on the Kurdistan Region. People in Kurdistan live in harmony if we work together, and the opposite is also true. The PUK knows this too well.

“The collaboration between the PUK and KDP has a direct effect on the Kurdistan Region.”

Rudaw: The purpose of the strategic agreement was to resolve disagreements between the two parties. However, the agreement itself is now leading the two sides into a dispute. Some believe the agreement has harmed the PUK. Is this true?

Saadi Pira: As I said, these words reflect individual opinions rather than official statements.

Rudaw: It was the spokesperson of the PUK political bureau who said that the agreement has harmed the PUK. What do you say to this?

Saadi Pira: I believe what Azad Jundiyani, the spokesperson for the PUK, said has been misinterpreted. He simply said that the strategic agreement needs to be reformed.

Rudaw: Has the agreement really harmed the PUK?

Saadi Pira: No, it has not. People in Kurdistan live in peace. The economy is progressing. The political system is working. We believe there isn’t an ideal governing system anywhere in the world. Every system has shortcomings. What is important is to find solutions to improve the system. The PUK and KDP don’t have disagreements about the current issues in Kurdistan, just about the solutions to these issues. So the disagreement is not over the content of the agreement, but the method of implementing it.  

Rudaw: It is said that the goal of the agreement was to divide power between the PUK and KDP in Kurdistan. Since the agreement didn’t mention power-sharing between the PUK and KDP in Baghdad, most of your disagreements are concentrated around this area. Why?

Saadi Pira: Precisely. The current situation and the future of Iraq have not been addressed in the agreement. However, the principals and methods of partnership have been mentioned. For example, both parties plan the elections. So the plan that has been set both sides becomes the agenda for the government to implement.

The government must return to the strategic agreement as its source when implementing plans. Government positions must be split between the two parties based on election outcomes and the strategic agreement. Of course, when the PUK and KDP win the general election, they will always choose their own people for the important positions such as those that relate to the economy and policy-making. But for the technical positions, we have no problem appointing other people.

“The current situation and the future of Iraq have not been addressed in the agreement.”Rudaw: Can you tell us of Talabani’s opinion on the agreement?

Saadi Pira: I don’t know what his opinion is. What I know is that he agrees with the contents of the agreement.

Rudaw: Has Talabani changed his mind about the agreement?

Saadi Pira: The agreement is important for the future of Kurdistan. When we suggest such things, the KDP believes we are demanding reforms in the content of the agreement. Talabani believes that it is normal for an agreement to be reevaluated. He doesn’t believe that the agreement has lost its legitimacy. Conversely, the agreement is needed now more than ever.

Talabani has always said that the agreement would lose its significance if it was only discussed among the leaders, without being implemented in the areas discussed within it. Neither the PUK nor the KDP political bureaus have asked for reforms to the agreement. Once in a while, a special committee examines the agreement in order to improve it.

Rudaw: Is it necessary to make reforms to the agreement?

Saadi Pira: I don’t believe it is. We believe the method of implementing the agreement is an issue, not its content.

Rudaw: Is it possible for the Change Movement (Gorran) to be a third party in the agreement?

Saadi Pira: The agreement is between the PUK and KDP. The goal of the agreement was to end conflict between the two parties. The agreement has served the Kurdish people in many ways, such as ending the civil war between the PUK and KDP. Currently, the agreement doesn’t need a third party.

Rudaw: The recent meeting between the PUK and Gorran was interpreted as a one-party meeting. Why?

Saadi Pira: The figures who attended the meeting spent most of their lives together in the PUK. The relationship between the two leaders, Talabani and Nawshirwan Mustafa, has a long history. The social relationships between the individuals on both sides have not changed despite the disagreements between their parties.

“Once in a while, a special committee examines the agreement in order to improve it.”

The current situation in Iraq requires reconciliation. In the Kurdistan Region, if some tensions have been due to the PUK’s relations with the main opposition party, then it is now taking a positive step toward improving relations with them. We always believed the opposition must play its role as opposition, not just try to win elections.

During the meeting, both sides discussed the current issues between them. Similar meetings between Gorran and President Massoud Barzani and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani were held. So the meeting was not a threat to anyone; it was to remove the threat to the Kurdistan Region.

Rudaw: What were the issues addressed during the meeting?

Saadi Pira: The issues were power-sharing and differing opinions. The differences and issues must be discussed in parliament instead of other places. The Kurdistan Region and the central government are in crisis. Everyone must take part in decision-making and overcoming this crisis, rather than just one person.

We are in negotiations with Turkey over the issue of the Syrian Kurds. We have a good relationship with Iran. It is better to protect these relationships in the interests of our people. If the Kurds are united in the Kurdistan Region, then they can have a joint plan based on openness to establish relationships with neighboring countries. This process will not succeed without the PUK and KDP. The unity of the Kurds will not occur without the opposition groups, including Gorran.

Rudaw: Before meeting with the PUK, Gorran informed the KDP about it. Did this action disappoint you?

Saadi Pira: Gorran and the KDP have an agreement, so that was normal. We are not suspicious about their relationship. The KDP and PUK have already agreed on easing tensions, making reforms, uniting the Kurdish voice and having the opposition groups participate in important political decisions.

Rudaw: How is Talabani’s health?

“Our current relationship is that we are the ruling party and they are the opposition.”

Saadi Pira: He is in good health. Since his surgery, he needs a lot of rest. He is getting better every day.

Rudaw: Why were journalists banned from taking pictures upon Talabani’s arrival at the airport? Was it because he was using a wheelchair?

Saadi Pira: No, he walks with a cane.

Rudaw: Have you seen him walking?

Saadi Pira: Yes, I was with him In Sulaimani for a week. He was using a cane. He is now walking without a wheelchair. He needs to rest as he shouldn’t put pressure on his knees. 

Rudaw: Who would Talabani like to run PUK’s affairs in his absence?

Saadi Pira: Talabani has two deputies — Kosrat Rasul and Barham Salih. Despite his health, Rasul always attends the leadership meetings. In case of their absence, the political bureau runs the party’s affairs.  

Rudaw: What is the nature of your relationship with Gorran? Can it be described as two branches of one tree?

Saadi Pira: We are two different political parties. They are Gorran and we are the PUK. Without a doubt, we have a long history together. Our current relationship is that we are the ruling party and they are the opposition.

Rudaw: Do you think Gorran and the PUK will unite someday?

Saadi Pira: I cannot predict that. As you know, a while ago was the anniversary of Sept. 11, Kurdish revolution day. At the time, there was only one party. We now have several parties.

Rudaw: What about the parliamentary system?

“We are in negotiations with Turkey over the issue of the Syrian Kurds.”

Saadi Pira: We in the Kurdistan Region still live in Iraq and have a constitution. No constitution will be accepted or succeed if it is against the federal constitution. The Kurdistan Region’s constitution cannot contradict with the Iraqi constitution. 

Rudaw: But, this has been finalized between Gorran and the PUK. Your latest joint statement insisted the parliamentary system must be implemented in Kurdistan. What do you say to this?

Saadi Pira: What we said is not something new. The Iraqi constitution mentions that and the Kurdistan Region president is aware of that. This has already been discussed with him. Barzani will do whatever is in the interest of the Kurdish people. This only repeats a constitutional article. First, the PUK and KDP must discuss implementing such a system. Second, it must be discussed with the political parties, parliament and law experts.