SULAIMANI, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Two of the main Kurdish parties have released a joint statement emphasizing that holding referendum for independence is a “national” matter and therefore needs to be discussed and “finalized” in the Kurdish parliament, an institution that has been paralyzed since October 2015.
The ruling KDP, which holds the posts of Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s presidency and prime ministry has so far insisted that the long-anticipated referendum does not need a mandate from the Kurdish legislature.
The ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the third biggest party, and Gorran, or Change Movement, the second biggest in terms of number of seats in the Kurdish parliament issued the statement Saturday following a high-level meeting in Sulaimani.
“The joint leadership emphasize that referendum, independence, and establishing the Kurdistan State is the legitimate right of the nation of Kurdistan,” the joint statement read, adding that it is in light of the Article 11 of the political agreement signed between the two parties a year ago.
It says the article states that “the two sides agree that right to self-determination, and declaring independence is the right of the nation of Kurdistan.
It is necessary to make arrangements by all sides, including holding referendum.
This issue is a national issue, and needs to be finalized in the parliament of Kurdistan in light of the greater interests of the Kurdistan nation.”
With regard to the so-called disputed areas, otherwise defined by the Kurdish authorities as the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region, the two sides say that they are for holding a referendum in these places, which importantly include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, claimed both by Baghdad and Erbil.
“The two sides agree on holding referendum in the Kurdistani areas outside the administration of the Kurdistan Region.”
The statement added that they discussed a number of pressing issues, including power sharing between the two parties in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja in accordance with the agreement they signed last year, paving the way for shared governance in these two provinces.
The PUK announced last Wednesday that holding an independence referendum in Kurdistan cannot be realized without reactivating the Kurdish parliament and seeking solutions for the outstanding political problems.
Crises inside Iraqi Kurdistan deepened after the five major political parties failed to reach an agreement on the Kurdistan presidency issue in October 2015, following the expiration of Massoud Barzani’s term as president. Barzani refused to step down and remains unofficially in office.
According to the law, Barzani cannot run for presidency anymore but the KDP insists that Massoud Barzani should remain president of the region.
Gorran says Barzani cannot run for presidency again.
Kurdistan Parliament has been closed since October 2015, after Kurdistan parliament speaker from Gorran, Yusuf Mohammed Sadiq, was prevented by Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP forces from entering Erbil, where parliament’s building is located.
The PUK, which has joined arms with its ally, the KDP with whom it has what is called a strategic alliance since 2015, to form a multi-party committee tasked with setting the time frame and mechanism for the referendum.
The PUK said in a statement on Wednesday that they made their view clear to the KDP leadership in their last meeting held earlier in the month.
It added that discussions about the mechanism of the referendum are ongoing and have not been finalized.
The PUK’s statement was in response to remarks made by the KDP’s head of the foreign relations office, Hoshyar Siwaily.
Siwaili told the weekly Kurdish Awene that the the PUK’s politburo office, like the KDP, believes that reactivating the Kurdish parliament is not needed.
The KDP and the PUK leadership met on April 11 in Erbil to discuss the referendum.
Massoud Barzani, and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, both from the KDP, and Kurdistan’s Vice President Kosrat Rasul from the PUK, among others, took part in the hours-long meeting.
The conclusion was reached to form a committee, consisting of seven political parties, five major Kurdish parties, plus two seats reserved for the Turkmen and Christian minorities.
The committee has not been set up yet due to major political differences, especially between the KDP and the Gorran (Change) movement.
The KDP is of the view that approval from the Kurdish parliament is not needed to call the referendum.
Gorran along with the Islamic Union, and the Islamic Group (Komal) — all members of the Kurdish coalition government — say they are in favor of the referendum, but it must have a mandate from the parliament.
The Kurdish opposition accuse Massoud Barzani and his KDP of using the independence issue as means to stay in power and monopoly it.
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