The Iraqi constitution must be fully implemented in order to have a stable Iraq and Erbil needs the help of a third party in negotiations with Baghdad and interpretation of the constitution, said Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani at a press briefing on Monday, stressing that the Kurds are ready for open dialogue with the central government on all disputes including oil revenues and the region’s share of the federal budget.
“KRG’s stance is very clear,” Barzani told reporters. “Before and after referendum we have always said it that if the Iraqi constitution is implemented we’d have no issues with Baghdad, but the constitution is something that must be implemented in its entirety.”
“In Iraq too, they talk about the constitution but they only pick what they like. Iraq wasn’t ready to implement the constitution that’s why we had a referendum.”
Barzani said that in his recent meeting with the US Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk, and a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he had expressed KRG’s full commitment to dialogue with Baghdad, adding that Erbil needs the help of third parties in interpreting the Iraqi constitution.
Barzani said that “In Iraq they treat the constitution like a [food] menu and go through it saying, ‘I like this one or that one.’”
“It must be fully implemented article by article,” he said, emphasizing that honoring the constitution will bring stability to Iraq.
The Kurdish Prime Minister talked to reporters shortly after a ruling from Iraq’s Federal Court that the September 25 referendum was unconstitutional and its results automatically cancelled. However, PM Barzani said that the ruling had been made “unilaterally and without the presence of Kurdish representatives.”
Barzani said that there were no secret talks between Erbil and Baghdad on any level, explaining that “We’ve only held military talks and that was to prevent confrontations and escalation of violence in areas where we had pulled out voluntarily.”
He meanwhile described Baghdad’s closure of Kurdistan Region’s airports as a “violation of human rights and the Chicago convention on people’s right to freedom of travel and movement.”
He said the closure of the airports in Erbil and Sulaimani affects 1.5 million refugees with regard with humanitarian aid and people’s need to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Barzani, who led a cabinet meeting earlier in the day, said that his government insisted on carrying out reforms and transparency in the oil sector.
“As you know we brought Deloitte on board to work on this and they’ll soon release their report which we believe will prove to all sides that our oil sector is transparent,” the Kurdish PM said. “We are ready to share this Baghdad and all those who want to see these files.”
On the question of efforts by some parties for the formation of an interim government, Barzani said that all parties were already party of the government and that they must instead focus on making things work in the current cabinet.
“It is not clear to me to me what they want exactly,” he said. “We are ready to make changes but what do they want or mean by an interim government? This government too is interim and we have a limited timeline.”
“Our priority now is to provide people’s salaries and we’ve done what we have been able to so far,” Barzani continued. “We’ll continue paying salaries and we’re working with Iraq now.”
He welcomed a move by Iraq to return its 2018 budget draft to the office of the prime minister for revision before sending it to parliament.
“I’m happy to say the draft bill that went to parliament has been returned to the cabinet for review and we hope that they’ll see it as a chance to redeem it because it is unimaginably unfair to the people of the Kurdistan Region.”
“We insist on our 17 percent share,” Barzani said. “And if they want we can give them our biometric system to work on.”
PM Barzani said that he was not aware of any deals to transport Kirkuk’s oil to the outside world via Iran, adding that there was no decision either from Iraq to send Kirkuk’s oil to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The Kurdish Prime Minister said that Erbil sought good relations with its neighbors and wanted to “be a force for stability” in the region. He thanked the government of Turkey and the office of the Turkish president, as well as Italy and the European Union for sending aid to the victims of last week’s earthquake.
He ended the press conference by calling on all Kurdish parties to remain on the same page in their stance, believing that “We shall overcome these difficult days as long as we stay united and avoid seeking opportunities to break each other.”