Credit: Bafel Talabani's media office

Live: KDP and PUK politburos meet again

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Kurdistan Region President hails 'important' meetings in Berlin

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, who was invited by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Germany, has called their meetings "important".

Following his discussion with Scholz, President Barzani spoke to three KDP-affiliated media outlets and the Qatari Al-Araby. He pointed out that the Iraqi government had not taken the necessary steps to resume exporting the KRG oil.

Also today, a senior delegation from the KDP visited PUK's politburo in Erbil, ending a month of political strife between the two major political parties in the Region. President Barzani admitted that KDP and PUK relations are "bad, but not very, very bad". He expressed his hope for continued meetings to arrive at a resolution, emphasizing the importance of unity for strengthening the Kurdistan Region's position both internally and externally.

As reported earlier, Barzani discussed Iraq during his meetings with German leaders. In the press conference, Barzani confirmed that their visit was coordinated with the Iraqi Prime Minister, acting as a united front with Iraq, as evidenced by the attendance of the Iraqi Ambassador in Germany at their meetings.

Barzani noted that during their discussions, they talked about improving political and economic relations and extended an invitation to Scholz to visit Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
If you haven't yet read our recent report on the Sulaymaniyah court's ruling to revoke the license of Rasan, an NGO advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, you can find it here.

Sirwan Ebdul has filed a comment piece on the closure, which you can read below: 
President Barzani's meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussing bilateral relations seems to have gone well. Barzani thanks Scholz for Germany's continued support for the Kurdistan Region.
Secretary of the Kurdistan Parliament Muna Kahveci, whose Turkmen political party is close to the KDP, has announced the suspension of her activities along with "all other Turkmen members" in the now dissolved Kurdistan parliament.

A formal letter, bearing Kahveci's signature along with that of other Turkmen faction members, was released on the same day the KDP faction made a similar announcement. This decision follows closely on the heels of the Iraqi Court's dissolution of the Kurdistan parliament in May.

Before this, the New Generation Movement, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, and the Kurdistan Justice Group had already resigned or boycotted the Kurdistan parliament. 
Observe the moment when the Dhi Qar Criminal Court announced the verdict against the defendant, Omar Nazar.

Iraq police officer jailed for life over protest killings

On Sunday, an Iraqi criminal court sentenced a police officer to life imprisonment over the murder of anti-government protesters in Nasiriyah in 2019.

Nasiriyah was a focal point of the nationwide anti-corruption protests that led to the deaths of over 600 people as authorities moved to suppress the dissent.

The court ruling stated that police squad commander Omar Nazar was convicted for the "murder of Mustafa Ahmad and his group" on November 28, 2019. Additionally, he was found guilty of causing injuries to Mohammad Yasser Hussein's group of protesters on the same day.

Nazar, who is entitled to appeal the verdict, had been on trial since February 2022 for the murder of 21 people during a security forces operation to break up a sit-in. Following the violent crackdown, approximately 95 families lodged complaints against Nazar, and around 100 witnesses provided testimony, as per Ali Mehdi Ajeel, an adviser to the governor of Dhi Qar province.

The protests in 2019, largely led by disillusioned young Iraqis, erupted due to rampant corruption, high unemployment, and inadequate public services in a country ravaged by years of war and conflict. The protest-led pressure ultimately resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi.

Iran's focus on the Kurdistan Region has sharpened, with the onus from Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties to a so-called "secret agreement" between the Kurdistan Region and the United States. Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is seeking clarification from KRG officials on this issue.

This "secret agreement" pertains to potential American support in providing an air defense system to the Peshmerga, the military forces of the Kurdistan Region. According to Kanaani, although defense matters should be handled by Iraq, Kurdish leaders need to explain the developments. He also urged leaders in the Region to act responsibly, citing concerns over their "sensitive acts," which he believes pertain to border security and relations with neighboring countries.

The US House Armed Services Committee has approved an amendment that supports the transfer of air defense systems to the Peshmerga as part of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a component of the Pentagon's budget. The amendment and budget await final approval by the US Senate. None of this is very 'secret' and is all public record. 

Kurdistan President in Berlin for meetings with German leaders

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani is in Berlin for official meetings with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other high-ranking German officials. This was confirmed in an English-language statement on the Presidency's website.

In discussions with German Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tobias Lindner, Germany's commitment to support Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the continued fight against ISIS was reaffirmed. They also touched upon the recent constructive visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister to Berlin and the ongoing situation in the Kurdistan Region, including the upcoming elections.

President Barzani additionally met with Svenja Schulze, Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, discussing the situation in Sinjar, the status of Yazidis and refugees in the Kurdistan Region, and Iraq's climate change impact.

Further discussions on climate change, desertification, and Iraq's need for foreign support in these areas took place in a meeting with German State Secretary Franziska Brantner. They also discussed the need for renewable energy and economic diversification in Iraq.

Interestingly, President Barzani, previously an advocate for the Kurdistan Region's economic independence and oil exports, is now addressing issues more in the context of Iraq. This shift aligns with the current KDP policy, which is oriented more towards Baghdad, especially after the halt in the KRG's oil exports due to a verdict by the ICC.


Qubad Talabani: Meeting is 'good'

Further updates from the KDP-PUK meeting reveal that Deputy PM Qubad Talabani (PUK) spoke optimistically to Kurdistan 24, stating: "Our meeting with the KDP is good and it will be better." 

Talabani didn't elaborate on what he meant by "good" and "better". His comment came after the meeting had commenced and he added that "the meeting continues." This could potentially be interpreted as an indication of a positive atmosphere in the meeting, a promising sign following months of political strife between the KDP and PUK.
Despite the Iraqi Federal Court's decision to dissolve the Kurdistan parliament, the KRG's Ministry of Finance continues to pay the regular salaries of MPs and provide the monthly budget for parliament.

According to Bwar News, the Presidency of the Kurdistan Parliament and MPs were expected to repay the KRG Finance Ministry a sum of $2.6m. However, the KRG has maintained regular salary payments of around $6000 per MP as of May.

In the aftermath of the ruling in May, the Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, Rewaz Faeq (PUK), did not comment on the decision, nor did KDP officials from the KRG, Presidency, and Parliament provide any statements.

Today, the KDP faction in the Kurdistan parliament announced their 'withdrawal' from the dissolved Kurdistan Parliament. They have urged the Presidency of the Kurdistan Parliament to initiate legal procedures for the retirement of their MPs, and they will refuse salary payments starting from June 2023. Though it's not clear why they need to withdraw if they recognize parliament is indeed dissolved as per the federal court's ruling. 

Previously, the New Generation Movement (NGM), the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Justice Group (Komal) had already resigned or boycotted the Kurdistan parliament.

Here's how the official PUK Media reported the meeting:

  • The PUK-KDP meeting is taking place "in the presence of" Bafel Talabani, a phrasing likely used to sidestep the awkward fact that the PUK leader is there in the absence of his 'equals' in the KDP – either the KDP leader Masoud Barzani or any of the deputy leaders, such as Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani (who's in Berlin to meet German leaders; more on that later) or PM Masrour Barzani. In terms of optics, this is not a good look for PUK leader Talabani: these bilateral meeting are usually stage-managed by each party to ensure b-team members are sent to meet b-team members from the other party. Though the KDP roster is strong, the PUK's is stronger. However! Talabani's new dapper and mature look—beard and suit replacing goatee and khakis—softens the blow.
  • Soran Jamal Tahir, PUK spokesperson, told PUK Media that the meeting's objective is to assess the current state of affairs in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, confront the imminent challenges facing the Kurds, address the problems and issues they are grappling with, and establish a plan to tackle these concerns. Additionally, the discussion aims to improve PUK-KDP relations. As far as meeting agendas go, that's a doozy. Previous meetings have tried but failed to address these issues. It remains to be seen whether this occasion, especially amidst escalated tensions following dramas in both Erbil and Baghdad (over elections and the federal budget), would yield different outcomes.
  • The report also added some context: "On Sunday, June 25, 2023, President Bafel, accompanied by a senior PUK delegation, visited the Gorran Movement, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Justice Group (KJG)." This suggests that he is on a tour to meet most political parties of the KRI to resolve issues. However, given Masoud Barzani's unsuccessful call for reconciliation, questions remain over Talabani's chances for achieving a real breakthrough.
More update from KDP and PUK meeting, Speaker of Kurdistan Parliament Rewaz Faeq has just arrived to the PUK politburo in Erbil to attend the meeting, Rudaw reports.

As we mentioned earlier, the meeting could be crucial to ending the impasse over Kurdistan parliamentary elections and other issues between KDP and PUK.


New Iraqi budget comes into effect

The Iraqi Budget Law for the fiscal years 2023-2025 has officially come into effect following its publication in the Iraqi Official Chronicle, no. 4726, issued by the Ministry of Justice. 

On Wednesday, June 21, 2023, the President of the Republic of Iraq, Abdullatif Jamal Rashid, ratified the country's Federal Financial Budget Law. Earlier, on June 12, Iraq’s parliament approved a substantial budget of $153bn for 2023-2025, marking one of the largest budgets in Iraq since 2003.

The newly implemented Budget Law is set to have significant repercussions for the Kurdistan Region, as it provides Baghdad with unprecedented control over Kurdistan’s economy, notably within the oil and gas sector. For a more comprehensive analysis of the implications of the Iraqi budget on the Kurdistan Region, see our recent article below:

More on the politburo meeting

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are holding a crucial meeting in Erbil to navigate through over a month of political deadlock that has strained their relations. Rudaw, affiliated with Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani (KDP), reports that the agenda covers topics such as the implications of the budget law, the situation in Sulaymaniyah, elections in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Nineveh, and the long-delayed Kurdistan Parliament elections.

Over the past month, the KDP and PUK have been at odds over the election law for the Kurdistan Parliament. Additionally, they have been disputing the independent share of the provinces of the Kurdistan Region in the Iraqi budget. The KDP has accused the PUK of "treason" and of undermining the sovereignty and constitutional position of the Kurdistan Region. However, these accusations have been refuted by the PUK.

The PUK delegation comprises President Bafel Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, member of the Higher Committee of PUK Interests Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa, PUK politburo members Darbaz Kosrat Rasul and Shalaw Ali Askari, and the Head of the Kurdistani Relations Board of PUK, Salar Sarhad.

The KDP delegation includes Secretary of the Executive Committee for the KDP politburo Fazil Mirani, Executive Committee members of the KDP politburo Hoshyar Zebari and Sidad Brazani, KDP politburo members Rebwar Yalda, Zagros Fatah and Fuad Hussein, as well as Mahmoud Mohammed.

Morning briefing

Good morning, everyone. 

Here are the latest developments from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region that are currently on our radar:

  • The big news today is the meeting of the KDP and PUK politburos in Erbil. This visit by the KDP politburo delegation to the PUK politburo in Erbil comes more than a month after their previous gathering in May, during which a KDP delegation visited Sulaymaniyah and met with the PUK. At the moment, international representatives are exerting mounting pressure on the KDP and PUK to facilitate the necessary arrangements for the Kurdistan Parliament elections. More importantly, this meeting between both parties comes after a month-long deadlock in their relations and approach towards the Kurdistan elections and budget law. The meeting could be crucial, as the PUK delegation is headed by their president Bafel Talabani, with the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani (PUK)
  • Following the ratification by the Iraqi President, the Iraqi Budget Law was published in the Iraqi Official Chronicle, which means the law will now be put into effect. On June 12, Iraq’s parliament approved a budget of $153bn for 2023-2025, marking one of the largest budgets in Iraq since 2003. This budget gives the Iraqi government more power to review the contracts of KRG oil and manage the export of KRG's oil.