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Barzani: Saudi Initiative Can be a Foundation for National Reconciliation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Kurdish political leadership is proud of its success in bringing together the different political forces in Iraq to meet at one table in order to discuss the issue of the formation of the forthcoming government. Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani confirmed that “merely bringing together the Iraqi leaders here in Erbil is an achievement in itself that we value.”

As for the initiative put forward by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, Barzani told a press conference that was held following the Erbil meeting that “we hope that the Kurdish Initiative is successful, because this is a national initiative that was born out of concern for the joint fate of the Arabs, Kurds, and other ethnicities [in Iraq]. This came out of concern for the future of Iraq and the interests of the Kurdistan region, and I think it is better for us to concentrate on national issues.” However Barzani added that “we would like to thank all other initiatives or help offered to us, including the Saudi Arabian Initiative, however we must – in my opinion – complete the mission here in Iraq, however the Saudi initiative may be help as a foundation for national reconciliation.”

Barzani added that “the effort that we exerted in this regard is the final answer to what some parties have been saying about the Kurds being preoccupied with their own region and neglecting the Iraqi situation. This meeting confirmed to everybody that the Kurds are concerned with resolving the problems and crises of Iraq, that they are part of the political equation, and that their mediation role guarantees the security and stability of Iraq.”

Answering a question from Asharq Al-Awsat over the new position put forward by the Iraqiya bloc and their demand for the presidency – a position that is traditionally given to a Kurdish candidate – in return for waiving their claim on the Iraqi premiership, Barzani said “Once again let me say and confirm that we respect everybody’s viewpoint, however it must also be clear to everybody that Iraq is made up of two main ethnic groups, and this is what is stated in the Iraqi constitution since its inception, as well as in the 14 July Constitution [following the 14 July 1958 Revolution], and also in the 11 March [1974] Agreement, and this is a reality that everybody must understand. The Kurdish bloc does not represent political parties, but rather the second ethnicity in Iraq, and therefore without a doubt what the Kurds are demanding is a national entitlement, not an electoral entitlement.”

Barzani described the Erbil meeting as being a “great achievement” adding that “the meeting in itself represents an important achievement, and a step forward, and as you know there has not been such a high-level meeting since the elections, as the meeting that were [previously] taking place were bilateral or tripartite, and this is the first meeting of its kind that has taken place since the elections, therefore this is an achievement in itself and represents a very important beginning for plotting the next steps [towards forming a government].” He added “this was an important meeting, and it achieved more than was expected, and if the meetings continue in this positive atmosphere, I am very optimistic that a government will be formed soon, for the meeting today was to lay the groundwork for the next steps, and let me say more accurately; this meeting broke the psychological barriers between the Iraqi blocs.”

Barzani concluded the press conference by saying “we achieved what we had to, and now await the outcomes of the meetings in Baghdad. We succeeded in bringing together the Iraqi leaders at one table, and this is the greatest answer to some parties who previously said that the Kurds are preoccupied with their own regional affairs, and do not care about what is happening in Iraq; such statements have been shown to be wrong for we are as much concerned about Kurdistan as we are concerned about the rest of Iraq, and we will continue in our efforts to bring the Iraqi blocs together and we call on the leaders to act according to their national responsibilities.”

For his part, Haidar al-Mulla, a spokesman for the Iraqiya bloc confirmed that the Iraqi bloc “rejects the belief that the position of president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament, should be distributed according to a quota system with sectarian and ethnic dimensions, for there are electoral entitlements that should be taken into account.” He added “we [the Iraqiya bloc] would certainly accept this position [the presidency] if it was offered to us, for this is a constitutional and electoral entitlement, and we are prepared to accept this position.”

Most statements issued by the Iraqi political blocs who took part in the Erbil meeting were optimistic. Ali al- Dabbagh, the official Iraqi government spokesman and a member of the State of Law coalition which is led by Nuri al-Maliki said that the atmosphere “was very positive, and the leaders discussed the overall points of contention between the political blocs.” He added that “essential points gave guarantees and assurances that everybody would participate in the forthcoming government, and what remains can be discussed following the formation of this government for this requires parliamentary legislation and governmental action.”

As for the main point in these guarantees, al-Dabbagh said “I believe that the guarantees are important, as are concessions. As for the other points related to the presidency, premiership, and position of parliamentary speaker; these are subject to discussion and will be discussed at future meetings.”

He added “we witnessed a positive atmosphere from the majority of leaders taking part in the meeting, and we did not see any convoluted positions from these parties but rather optimism from all sides, and this optimism must be translated into real action…and responsibility and commitment to holding a meeting on Thursday. We believe this will be a historic day, and we believe on that day we will be able to say that the forthcoming government is close to being formed.”

Answering a questions from Asharq Al-Awsat about what will happen should the talks in Erbil and Baghdad fail, and whether the discussions will be transferred to Riyadh as part of King Abdullah’s initiative, al-Dabbagh said “it would be better to meet in Iraq, especially during the present stage, for this is a meeting that includes the Iraqi nature…and what is required is for this meeting to be an Iraqi one, and for the Iraqis to be the ones in charge of this meeting.”

As for the differences that were revealed during the Erbil meeting, al-Dabbagh said “there were various points of contentions, but we believe that some of these differences can be overcome, and the remaining differences can wait until the period when the government is being formed…and this also requires parliamentary legislation, and so can wait until after the parliamentary session begins in order for parliament to take its active legislative and regulatory role.”

Al-Dabbagh noted that “the meeting in Erbil was positive, but the surprise will occur in the Baghdad meeting over the next two days.”

For his part, Dr. Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff of the President of Kurdistan, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the atmosphere of the Erbil meeting “was very positive and very encouraging, and it will be transferred to Baghdad…under the umbrella of the initiative put forward by the Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani.”