Iraqi Kurdistan’s PM Attempting To Diplomatically Resolve Crisis

Earlier this month, Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, met with a range of officials in France and Germany, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. The PM is also expected to visit the UK in the coming weeks. These meetings are part of PM Nechirvan Barzani’s renewed effort to diplomatically resolve the ongoing independence crisis with Iraq and neighbouring countries.

World leaders have supported reconciliation efforts, and have called on Baghdad to negotiate with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to end the crisis, and prevent further escalation. However, we are yet to see a complete normalisation of relations, with both parties yet to agree on a budget for Iraqi Kurdistan.

Relations between the KRG and the Iraqi federal government deteriorated in late September, after Iraqi Kurdistan held a referendum for independence, which saw over 90% of voters voting in favour of independence. Iraqi forces used the referendum to attack Kurdish Peshmerga troops in northern Iraq, seizing control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, and all airports and bordering crossings in the autonomous region.

“The Kurdistan Region is fully prepared from this day to form that joint administration at the airports, the border crossings, and solve that problem, according to the Iraqi constitution,” PM Barzani said, outlining a potential solution to the border crossings dispute. 

Prior to the referendum, there were tensions between the KRG and the Iraqi federal government, with Iraq not providing them with a budget since 2014, and providing no financial assistance to the Peshmerga to fight ISIS.

A number of KRG officials, plus some political analysts, have described this response as “unconstitutional,” and the PM himself has called on Baghdad to negotiate with the KRG, using the articles of the Iraqi constitution to settle any disputes. Iraq has rejected this request, and recently said there wouldn’t be any negotiations until certain conditions were met.

Meanwhile, Iran imposed economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan’s energy industry, while Turkey threatened to implement similar measures. Encouragingly, relations with Turkey have been slowly improving, with Turkey allowing PM Nechirvan Barzani to cross through the country earlier this month, on his way to Germany.