ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Delegations from the two largest parties in the Kurdistan Region are set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the formation of the regional government’s future cabinet and the post of the governor of Kirkuk, a party official said.
In late May, lawmakers from the regional parliament voted in Nechirvan Barzani as the new President who then, on July 11, designated Masrour Barzani to form the future Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The latter of the two leaders has since been holding talks with various parties to discuss the roles of each in his cabinet.
The two figures are both members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which, with 45 seats out of the 111-seat parliament, is the largest party in the autonomous Kurdistan Region, followed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), with 21.
Khalid Shwani, a ranking PUK member, told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that both parties would meet on cabinet formation as well as the Kirkuk question, the settling of which, he added, was an urgent issue and would mark a step towards improved security in the area.
The oil-rich and ethnically diverse province of Kirkuk has been at the heart of a major dispute between the two leading parties over the past few years, especially after Iraqi forces and Shia militias attacked and took over Kirkuk and other disputed territories on Oct. 16, 2017, in response to the independence referendum, driving out their previous brothers-in-arms, the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Kirkuk's population is made up of Turkmens, Arabs, Christians, and a Kurdish majority. Since late 2017, the province had been administered by the Iraqi federal government and Acting Governor Rakan Saeed, whom Kurdish parties have repeatedly accused of carrying out a systematic campaign to change the demography of Kirkuk with a program of Arabization.
Following last year’s Sept. 30 parliamentary election, the KDP and the PUK inked several bilateral agreements regarding the formation of the new government and its cabinet, the situation in the disputed province of Kirkuk, and governmental posts in Baghdad, but disagreements persist.
The two sides were recently able to agree on Farouq Amin Shwani to take the role of Minister of Justice in Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet. A Kurdish candidate traditionally holds the post and as such, the KDP and PUK had to nominate a single candidate for it.
PUK leadership member Rebwar Ismael told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that appointing a justice minister marked a positive step towards resolving other lingering disputes as the two parties could utilize the same mechanism to nominate a person to take on the governorship of Kirkuk.
The PUK has a larger number of seats in the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) and has said the post of governor belongs to them as it has in the past, while the KDP has maintained ruling the province cannot be handed to PUK elements who were allegedly involved in the events that led to the events of October 16.
Khalid Shwani is also a member on the national Kirkuk Situation Normalization Committee, which held a meeting on Tuesday to assess the ongoing developments and the province’s security, which has significantly deteriorated since late 2017 amid near-constant Islamic State attacks and increased ethnic tensions.
Shwani said he expected that his party and the KDP would soon reach a deal on the Kirkuk issue.
Editing by Nadia Riva