ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, on Wednesday arrived in Baghdad at the head of a delegation that met with the top three Iraqi officials amid an apparent lull in nationwide protests that began on October 1 and continued into November.
Erbil-Baghdad relations was one of the main topics of discussion between President Barzani and Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, and Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, according to there separate statements from his office.
In efforts to mend ties that deteriorated in late 2017, talks between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had been ongoing until September, approaching a concrete understanding between both sides. However, dialogue struck a pause due to Baghdad’s shift in focus to address violence-ridden protests in October.
A widespread violent crackdown by members of the security forces and paramilitaries resulted in the deaths of at least 300 protesters and injury to over 12,000 others in various Iraqi cities, with many of the casualties being in the capital.
As the violence continued, Abdul Mahdi repeatedly called for calm and tried to placate protests by offering a reform package that purports to address the grievances of a class of citizens who see the ruling political elite as corrupt and incapable of meeting their daily needs.
During his meeting with Abdul Mahdi, Barzani reaffirmed the Kurdistan Region’s “support for Iraq’s security and political stability, and the steps taken by [Baghdad] to reform and meet the legitimate demands of citizens.”
The President also highlighted bilateral Erbil-Baghdad relations and the need for “dialogue to solve outstanding issues and the progress achieved in this direction.” He noted that coordinated efforts are required to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, especially in vulnerable areas, namely the disputed territories.
Amendments to Constitution
In his meeting with President Salih, Barzani discussed “amendments planned for the Iraqi constitution,” deputy speaker Bashir Haddad told reporters in Baghdad. This is part of Baghdad’s reform agenda, with a recently-formed parliamentary committee dedicated to writing amendments.
Haddad pointed out that Barzani affirmed during his meeting with Salih the region’s “support for any constitutional amendments that serve Iraq and ensure better services to the Iraqi people in general.”
Erbil has, however, previously expressed that the current woes of the country are not due to the contents of Iraq’s founding document following the fall of the former regime in 2003. Rather, they have arisen because the Constitution’s stipulations have not been implemented.
Barzani reiterated this position during his meeting with Speaker Halbousi, saying “any amendments to the Constitution must serve the interests of Iraq, the country’s stability, and protect the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq’s components in general.”
The Kurdistan Region has also stated its firm rejection of any amendments that affect the rights of Kurds and the powers of the KRG.
Editing by Nadia Riva