Iraqi PM aide: State of Erbil-Baghdad ties 'never better'

The Kurdistan Region and Iraq have “excellent ties,” and despite a “few minor” lingering issues, the two nations should be able to settle them given the levels of trusts...
author_image Kosar Nawzad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region and Iraq have “excellent ties,”  and despite a “few minor” lingering issues, the two nations should be able to settle them given the levels of trusts and mutual respect between them, a senior aide to Iraq’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

Speaking with Kurdistan 24 on the sidelines of a special event in Russia, Chief of Staff and Adviser to Iraq’s prime minister, Abdulkarim Hashim Mustafa, highlighted Erbil and Baghdad’s increasingly improving ties. The event was a conference on the Middle East, organized by the Valdai International Discussion Club, a Russian think tank.

“Relations are very good between the Kurdistan Region and the federal government,” Mustafa said. “Right now,” the state of bilateral ties is at its “best” as they are based on “high levels of trust” between the two administrations.

However, he added, “I will not claim that all differences…have been put to rest. There will always be small problems.” But both sides “are capable of resolving these issues” together.

Following the Sept. 2017 referendum on independence, relations between the two governments reached a breaking point when Baghdad responded to the vote with a military takeover of contested areas, leading to the withdrawal of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Since then, senior officials from both sides have met, often to work on mending ties and increasing cooperation. Steps in this direction have improved since a new administration was elected in Baghdad, headed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

In November, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, the leading Kurdish figure and former President of the region, visited the Iraqi capital to discuss Erbil-Baghdad disputes and express support for the newly formed government headed by Abdul-Mahdi.

It was the first such visit since Barzani played a central role in the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum during his tenure as President. His two-day trip included meeting with leaders across the spectrum of Iraqi politics.

In the months that have followed, a number of developments highlight growing cooperation between the two administrations.

Among these steps include the newly passed 2019 federal budget – which was backed by Kurdish lawmakers after amendments were made to the bill based on their suggestions – and the removal of domestic customs points – another measure imposed by Baghdad following the events of late 2017.

Editing by Nadia Riva