Baghdad rejects talks between KRG and Iraqi vice presidents

Kurd leader Masoud Barzani met with vice presidents Ayad Allawi and Osama Al Nujaifi in Sulaymaniyah, where they were attending the funeral of Jalal Talabani, Iraq's former president

Iraqi Prime minister Haider al-Abadi during a joint press conference with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee palace in Paris, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. Macron offers mediation between Iraq's government and Kurds seeking independence. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
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Baghdad's central government on Sunday rejected talks between Iraq's vice presidents and Kurdish leader as the two sides remain at an impasse over Kurdistan's independence push.

Iraq's Kurdish region voted for independence in a symbolic but controversial referendum two weeks ago against Baghdad's approval.

The central government responded by banning international flights out of the region and threatening to suspend Kurdish representatives from the national parliament.

Saad Al Hadithi, the spokesperson of Iraq's prime minister Haider Al Abadi, said: "the meeting that took place between president of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani and Iraqi vice presidents Ayad Allawi and Osama Al Nujaifi does not reflect the position of the Iraqi government.”

"The meeting was part of consultations between various Iraqi and Kurdish parties," Mr Al Hadithi said, adding that Baghdad’s position is well reflected in the decisions passed by the office of the prime minister, the Iraqi supreme court, and the Iraqi parliament, all of whom reject the Kurdish referendum.

Mr Al Hadithi said: "Any dialogue between the two sides should be within the framework of the Iraqi constitution that stipulates protecting the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq."

On Saturday, Mr Barzani met with Mr Allawi and Mr Al Nujaifi in Sulaymaniyah, where they were attending the funeral of Jalal Talabani, Iraq's former president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Mr Allawi urged Baghdad and Erbil to restrain from provoking issues, pushing for dialogue to be constructed within the frameworks of the Iraqi constitution.

During the meeting Mr Allawi warned that "regional countries should not interfere," Mr Allawi's adviser Sara Allawi said.

"Mr Allawi pointed to the importance of engaging all sides of the political process in order to resolve the dispute with Erbil," Ms Allawi said.

This comes under the frameworks of the "Allawi initiative" in which Mr Allawi is leading efforts to bring Erbil and Baghdad to the negotiating table to solve the outstanding issues between both sides.

The trio also agreed on carrying out talks with an open agenda and to ensure ongoing meetings between Erbil and Baghdad.

On Sunday, Mr Barzani held talks with the speaker of Iraqi's central government Salim Al Jubouri in Erbil, during the meeting Mr Al Jubouri stressed the need to preserve unity, security and stability in Iraq.

Abdel Al Malik Husseini, spokesman for the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, said: "The meeting aims to prevent the deterioration of the relationship between Baghdad and Erbil which threatens the security and stability of Iraq."

Mr Al Jubouri's visit aims to "end the state of separation between Baghdad's central government and Kurdistan," Mr Husseini said, "the meeting also reiterated the importance of dialogue with an open agenda among all sides to resolve the issues between Erbil and Baghdad."

Hemin Hawrami, senior assistant to Mr Barzani said: "Erbil informed Mr Al Jubouri that the Kurdish government is ready for dialogue with Baghdad without preconditions from any side in a defined time frame.” The message was retaliated by the Kurdish prime minister Nechirvan Barzani.

"Erbil is open to dialogue with Baghdad and we welcome international mediation," Mr Barzani said, adding that "Erbil is in line with France, the United Nations and the international community to hold dialogue as soon as Baghdad accepts."

However Mr Barzani warned that "Baghdad must talk with Erbil to resolve issues, not Tehran or Ankara", adding that "Baghdad is seeking assistance of other states to put pressure on Kurdistan is not it's interests."

The non-binding Kurdish independence referendum was heavily opposed by the US, Iran, Turkey and United Nations, they warned that it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the already-volatile region.