ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Baghdad on Sunday held a memorial for the former Kurdish President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, with many Iraqi officials attending the ceremony except for Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi.
On Oct. 3, Talabani died at the age of 83 in Germany where he was receiving treatment after suffering a stroke in late 2012. Following his death, Abadi declared three days of mourning in the country.
On Monday, a ceremony was held in Baghdad with most senior Iraqi officials attending the event, including former Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki. Abadi, however, was not present at the event, raising questions among many.
Talabani, who was also the Secretary-General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was the sixth President of Iraq since the country was established in 1920. He was also the first non-Arab politician elected to the position. He served in office from 2005 until 2014.
Abadi on Monday held a meeting with the members of the Iraqi Council of Ministers and the National Security Council in Baghdad. He announced a new set of sanctions on the Kurdistan Region as part of ongoing punitive measures to be taken against the Region in retaliation to the Sep. 25 referendum.
Narmin Osman, a member of the leadership council of Talabani’s party, on Monday, told Kurdistan 24 that his absence might be related to the Kurdistan Region’s referendum.
“Iraqi Premier Haider al-Abadi should release a statement and clarify the reason behind his absence in the ceremony to honor the late Talabani in Baghdad… Abadi himself declared three days of mourning in the country,” Osman said.
In a special ceremony held on Friday, the body of Talabani arrived at the Sulaimani International Airport directly from Germany and was wrapped in the national flag of Kurdistan. Foreign and Iraqi officials were present at the ceremony, including Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri and Iraqi President Fuad Masum. Abadi was also absent then and forewent sending a representative on his behalf.
“Abadi had much respect for Talabani, and his absence might be due to the Kurdistan Region’s signaling they wish to secede and the fact that they did not bring his body to Baghdad,” Osman added.
The absence of Iraqi flag along the Kurdistan flag on Talabani's casket in the Sulaimani ceremony drew much anger from some Iraqi television channels and Members of Parliament, some of which left the event early in protest and flew back to Baghdad.
Kurdish officials claim that while Talabani was President of Iraq for nine years, he was first and foremost a Kurdish leader and fought for Kurdish rights for more than 40 years against former Iraqi regimes.
Talabani in the past decade has played a vital role in resolving disputes and balancing power between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq. In his absence after 2012, the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad began to deteriorate as political turmoil increased in the country.
Editing by G.H. Renaud