ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Former President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani met on Thursday with a number of top Iraqi leaders in the nation's capital to discuss mechanisms of resolving Erbil – Baghdad disputes and is scheduled to meet with multiple others on the following day.
Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed a senior Kurdish delegation to Baghdad, the first such visit since the Kurdistan Region's controversial independence referendum held last year in the region and in Iraq's disputed territories.
Although he has held no governmental posts since he resigned as regional president on Nov. 1, 2017 in the wake of the referendum, he continues to play a central and influential role in the Kurdistan Region, and therefore, in Iraq as a whole. This is no less the case after KDP voters turned out in strong numbers in both national and regional elections in 2018 elections.
After landing in Baghdad at mid-day, Barzani met with new Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, head of al-Fatih (Conquest) coalition Hadi al-Amiri, former national security adviser Falih al-Fayyadh, and head of the State of Law Coalition and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Barzani is a key “engineer in the process of building relations, not just in Iraq, but in the region and world,” Abdul-Mahdi told reporters following the discussion between the two.
“Our relationship is an old one,” Barzani said, adding, “We express our full support for” Abdul-Mahdi. “We will continue to work to improve ties.”
In Baghdad — Auspicious moment for a meaningful debate on unresolved issues and institutionalizing KRG-Fed Govt relations. I’m optimistic given the new leadership appreciates the shared benefits of success and costs of failure are many for our peoples and the region- mb. pic.twitter.com/O8Zy66QURx— Masrour Barzani (@masrour_barzani) November 23, 2018
On Friday, Barzani is scheduled to meet with former Prime Minister and current leader of Nasr (Victory) Coalition Haider al-Abadi, head of al-Hikma (Wisdom) movement Ammar al-Hakim, head of al-Wataniya coalition and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front Arshad al-Salihi. A member of Barzani's delegation told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that, from Baghdad, he will then fly to the holy city of Najaf to meet with Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Sairoon coalition, the top vote-getter in May's national election.
Barzani’s visit appears to be an indication of improving bilateral relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after considerable tensions following the 2017 Kurdish referendum.
The vote, held on Sep. 25, 2017, took place in the Kurdistan Region and disputed territories and saw a landslide majority favoring secession. Barzani played the leading role in advocating for the vote.
In his meetings on Thursday, Barzani discussed various ongoing issues of contention between Erbil and Baghdad, primary among them, territories disputed by the Kurdistan Region and the federal government of Iraq.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Aras Ahmed from Baghdad)