ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Delegates from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) will meet on Monday to discuss the situation in the disputed province of Kirkuk and agree on a candidate for the governorship of Kirkuk, according to a party source.
The meeting comes as the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet is expected to be formed before June 12.
“The meeting between the two parties will take place in Sulaimani, where both parties will discuss normalizing the situation in Kirkuk and agree on a candidate for the post of the province’s governorship,” a source from the PUK told Kurdistan 24.
The KDP delegation will be headed by the party’s spokesperson, Mahmoud Mohammed, while the PUK’s delegates will be led by Hakim Qadir Hamajan, a member of the party’s politburo, the source added.
The situation in Kirkuk has been a hot button issue, with security deteriorating considerably after the military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias in the wake of the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence in late 2017.
Since then, Kirkuk has been a point of contention between the two leading parties, notably after a group of leaders within the PUK were accused of secretly cooperating with Iraqi forces and the militias in “handing over the province.”
The Oct. 16, 2017 attack led to the removal of the hugely popular governor, Najmaldin Karim, the last elected governor of Kirkuk. The head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC), Rebwar Talabani, along with half of KPC members, fled to the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Iraqi courts later issued an arrest warrant for Talabani and sentenced him to six months in prison in absentia. However, this June, Iraqi courts canceled the arrest warrant and on Sunday, reversed the ruling against Talabani, an indication of improving ties between Erbil and Baghdad in an attempt to normalize the situation in the oil-rich province.
Both the KDP and the PUK signed an agreement earlier this year to elect a governor in Kirkuk as part of the larger framework for the formation of the new KRG cabinet.
The PUK over the past year has presented several candidates to the post to the KDP for approval, but the top Kurdish party has repeatedly rejected them, stating the ideal candidate should “not be among or close to the PUK leaders who were involved in treason on Oct. 16.”
The KDP, which is the largest Kurdish party with 45 seats in the Kurdistan Parliament and 25 in the Iraqi one, over the past few months has been engaged in a dialogue with the new Iraqi federal government headed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi regarding the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk.
Editing by Nadia Riva