More talks likely on Kurdish independence vote, negotiator says
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug 22 (Reuters) – A delegation of Kurdish ruling Kurdish politicians could meet next week to try to persuade them to delay or cancel a plan to hold a referendum on independence, he said. A negotiator.
A first round of talks, held last week in Baghdad, helped both sides and a second round could take place next week in the Kurdish capital of Arbil, Abdullah al-Zaidi, the negotiator of the National Alliance, a Shiite decision Iraqi Shiite coalition, Reuters said Monday night.
The Kurdish delegation met separately last week with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the National Alliance, as well as other political parties in Baghdad.
A Kurdish official, Mala Bakhtiar, said on Saturday the possibility of Reuters
The postponement of a planned referendum of 25 September on independence could be seen as a result of financial and political concessions from the central government in Baghdad.
The United States and other Western countries fear that the vote could trigger a new conflict with Baghdad and perhaps with neighboring countries, divert attention from the ongoing war against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has formally requested Massoud Barzani, president of the Regional Board of Kurdistan (GRK) two weeks ago to postpone the referendum.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis plans to reiterate Barzani to cancel the referendum at his meeting in Erbil, the Kurdish capital of northern Iraq, a US official traveling with him told Reuters.
“They (the Kurds) want guarantees,” said Zaidi, who is responsible for relations with Kurdish parties in the National Alliance. “The issue of guarantees was left to the next round of discussions.”
The Kurds will not agree to consider delaying the vote without setting another date, said Bakhtiar, executive secretary of the Politburo of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (UPK).
Politically, Baghdad must agree to agree to resolve the issue of disputed areas, as does the oil region of Kirkuk, which is also home to Arab and Turkmen communities.
Economically, Baghdad should be ready to help the Kurds to overcome a financial crisis and resolve their government debts, he told Reuters in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya.
It is estimated that the debt of 10 to 12 billion dollars, the equivalent of the annual budget of the GRK, due to contractors and public works and Kurdish peshmerga fighters whose salaries have not been paid in full for several months.
Baghdad has stopped payments from the GRK Iraq’s federal budget in 2014 after the Kurds started exporting independent oil from Baghdad, through an oil pipeline to Turkey.
The Kurds say they need additional income to meet rising costs incurred by the war against the Islamic state and a large influx into the internally displaced GRK territory.
The self-proclaimed “caliph” has actually collapsed in July when Iraqi forces backed by US activists Mosul recovered after a nine-month campaign attended by Kurdhs peshmerga fighters.