ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation leading negotiations with the Federal Government of Iraq is due on Sunday for another round of talks in Baghdad despite Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi’s intentions to step down.
“Tomorrow, we will go back to Baghdad and talks, hopefully, will continue,” Umed Sabah, head of the KRG Council of Ministers Diwan, told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday. Sabah is part of the negotiating team.
Sabah reiterated that Erbil and Baghdad had agreed to an initial deal on oil exports and added that the two sides had to discuss details of financial arrangements, including the KRG share of the national annual budget for 2020.
“We will insist on the constitutional entitlements of the Peshmerga, the salaries of public servants, and the rights of the Kurdistan Region.”
Erbil–Baghdad negotiations struck a pause in early October when central and southern provinces in Iraq organized widespread anti-government protests. So far, Iraqi security forces have killed over 400 demonstrators and wounded at least 16,000 others.
The KRG negotiating delegation resumed talks with Baghdad last week and, following a second visit on Monday, reached an agreement with the federal government regarding oil revenue sharing, according to the Oil Minister, Thamer al-Ghadhban.
During a cabinet meeting, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani affirmed the KRG’s commitment to “securing an agreement that protects the interests of the people through continued cooperation and a strong collaborative approach,” according to a statement from his office.
However, as pressure continued to mount after two months of demonstrations, the Iraqi prime minister announced that he would submit his resignation to the national legislature after the country’s top cleric, Ali al-Sistani, called on lawmakers to “reconsider” their support for the current government.
The Iraqi Parliament has scheduled a session for Sunday.
Sistani’s statement followed a day of unprecedented violence in the cities of Baghdad, Nasiriya, and Najaf, where security forces killed upward of 40 protesters, who torched the Iranian consulate in Najaf the night before.
As the unrest continued even after Abdul Mahdi’s announcement, the fate of talks with Erbil was unclear.
On Saturday, senior Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani expressed his concerns about the unfolding situation. “We are closely monitoring the recent developments and welcome any steps which could contribute to resolving the crisis and not lead to the return of dictatorship,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Any changes should take into consideration the rights of all components and must be in accordance to the [Iraqi] Constitution,” he added, referring to efforts at amending the government’s founding document.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany