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FRI, 13 DEC 2019 Kurdistan Region (GMT +3)
KDP FR ■  WED, 13 NOV 2019 12:55

Kurdistan President Meets with Iraqi President, PM, Speaker in Baghdad

President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani made an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Wednesday to meet Iraq’s prime minister, president, and parliament speaker to discuss Erbil-Baghdad relations and the month-long protests that have engulfed Iraq’s south and center.

Meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad on Wednesday morning, then with Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, were followed by discussions with President Barham Salih at Salam Palace.

The visit takes place amid ongoing protests in Iraq’s south and center that began on October 1, demanding an end to corruption, unemployment, and nepotism, among other grievances.

Protesters have been met with violent repression, including the fire of live rounds of ammunition and of military-grade tear gas canisters that have pierced the skulls of over 10 Iraqi protesters.

At least 319 people have died and more than 15,000 people have been injured, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights in the protests.

Protests have evolved to demand a complete overhaul of Iraq’s electoral laws, electoral commission, and amendments to the 2005 national constitution.

Some Kurds have expressed worry about potential amendments to a constitution which enshrined their autonomy in the Iraqi state and increased their national political influence.

This prompted Barzani to meet with Salih and senior Kurdish political officials in Erbil to discuss the developments last week.

The Kurdistan Region president has stood by the Iraqi prime minister, who has been in office for less than year, saying he needs more time to deliver change in Iraq.

Abdul-Mahdi is generally considered to be sympathetic to Kurds, especially in comparison to his predecessors.

Despite the warm relations, there remain some outstanding issues between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi government. The Region’s independent oil sales, budget disagreements, and the issue of the disputed territories continue to be points of contention.

Ashwaq Jaff, a former Kurdistan Democratic Party MP in the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw on Wednesday that there are serious fears among Kurdish officials that the Region’s standing could be dented, as some Iraqi political actors weaponize Iraqi anti-corruption protests to push for constitutional changes.

“We all know that Iraqi rulers of past terms, especially the second and third terms [former prime ministers Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi] tried hard to do away with the Kurdistan Region as a [federal] entity … whether through amending the constitution or force. But they didn’t succeed,” Jaff asserted.

With the protests in Iraq showing no signs of abating, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Abdul-Mahdi on Tuesday, condemning the use of violence on protesters and urging the Iraqi premier to address their demands.

“The Secretary deplored the death toll among the protesters as a result of the Government of Iraq’s crackdown and use of lethal force, as well as the reports of kidnapped protesters. Secretary Pompeo urged Prime Minister Abd al-Mahdi to take immediate steps to address the protesters’ legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption,” according to a US State Department readout.

“He reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment to a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq, as outlined in our bilateral Strategic Framework Agreement,” added Pompeo.

post-call readout from Abdul-Mahdi, however, presented the discussion as taking a less condemnatory tone.

“The Secretary of State of America affirmed the support of the United States of America to his Excellency the Prime Minister and the Iraqi government, and the desire to bolster… affirming the right of peaceful protests in light of the democratic system of Iraq and supporting Iraqi security forces,” according to the prime minister.

As Iraqi security forces continue their crackdown on protesters, tribal leaders, activists and protesters in Basra demanded that the city’s judiciary and police release all detained protesters within 48 hours. Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained since the protests began.

“We want them [detained protesters] released now, now, now in a period that doesn’t exceed 48 hours,” the Basra collective said in a Tuesday statement.

In a reiteration of comments made yesterday, Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential cleric and main rival of Abdul-Mahdi, urged security forces to exercise restraint and called on protesters to prevent American intervention in their movement.

“The honorable security forces … should not harm protesters and demonstrators, but they should push away infiltrators and the undisciplined, who assault the revolutionaries by killing, kidnapping, sniping them,” Sadr said.

“The revolutionaries have to fend off the ghost of external American or other interventions, and even [the intervention of] some activists sitting behind their keyboards, whose fingers are moved based on the colonial agendas of America and others,” he added.



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