Live: Yet another KDP-PUK meeting underway in Sulaymaniyah as diplomatic pressure for elections mounts

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In a meeting between Iran's foreign minister and Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the special representative of the secretary general for Iraq, the minister emphasized the importance of secure Iran-Iraq borders and strict adherence to the security agreement between both nations. This meeting supports prior assumptions that the security condition in Kurdistan was a significant discussion point. Iranian officials frequently highlight the existence of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan during conversations with Iraqi officials.
Following the joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah met with both the prime minister and the president. 

According to a readout from the prime minister's office, the meeting between the PM and the FM emphasized "enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, strengthening ties across various sectors, boosting economic cooperation, and fostering partnerships in the private sector, including opportunities for business exchange."

Here is the full readout from the meeting:
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation plans to conduct an emergency meeting tomorrow, initiated by Iraq, to discuss and denounce recent incidents across Europe involving the desecration of the Quran.

The following are remarks from Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein:

At Iraq's request, the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be hold tomorrow, to renew our condemnation & denunciation of actions that target Muslim sanctities & religious values, ​& to stress the need to take the necessary & deterrent measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents & combat hate speech.


Snap analysis: KDP-PUK joint statement

The significance of the joint agreement between the KDP and PUK is difficult to judge. Over recent months, neither side has been in short supply of statements professing a desire for unity and a willingness to reconcile past disagreements. However, time and again, for various reasons, attempts to reach mutual understanding between the KDP and PUK have fallen flat, with both sides reverting to the default mode: intransigence.

Items two and five of the five-point agreement released jointly after the meeting echo prior agreements by both sides, providing little insight into the future of KDP-PUK agreements.

Point three, promising "to continue the Peshmerga [reform] process," seems designed primarily to appease Western partners. Coalition forces have reportedly made hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid to the Peshmerga contingent upon ongoing reforms within the ministry. Recent KDP-PUK disagreements affecting the Peshmerga Ministry have raised concerns among the Coalition. This statement suggests that both sides may attempt to mitigate any further negative impact, but as PUK diplomat Imad Farhadi bluntly put it, we're currently witnessing a "complete disintegration of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (MoPA)."

With respect to agreeing to hold elections at a date specified by the Kurdistan Region's President (point one), the devil is in the details. The PUK has never publicly opposed elections, but it has consistently objected to the timing, citing a range of concerns including election laws, the election commission, and voter records. The joint statement indicates a date will be set by the President "after consulting with the political parties in the region," which brings us full circle to where we were in 2021 when elections were first proposed.

Point four could potentially be the most significant, despite its vague wording. The PUK's disagreements with the KDP in Baghdad have been a major source of tension, and PM Masrour Barzani has even indirectly accused the PUK of betraying the Kurdish nation by not supporting his negotiations with Baghdad. Just last week, both the KDP-led KRG team and Bafel were separately in Baghdad to negotiate deals with Federal forces. Whether the KDP and PUK will finally break with the past and stick to the agreement this time remains to be seen.

Joint statement by the KDP and PUK on today's meeting

The KDP and PUK have released a joint statement following a meeting between the two sides in Sulaymaniyah today. 

According to the statement, both parties agreed on the following points:

  1. Both sides endorse the scheduling of the Kurdistan's Parliamentary elections at a time specified by the President of the Kurdistan Region, after consulting with the political parties in the region.
  2. To better serve the people of Kurdistan, minor issues and differences should be put aside, focusing instead on collaboratively addressing the challenges at hand
  3. They've agreed to continue the Peshmerga reform process.
  4. Both sides pledged to support the agreements of the ninth cabinet of the KRG.
  5. To enhance relationships and overcome barriers, embodying patriotism and affection for Kurdistan, they've decided to maintain regular bilateral meetings and coordinate with all political factions.

Vibe: 😡

This is how PUK diplomat Imad Farhadi sees the crisis within in the Peshmerga ministry:

How it began: Unification of Peshmerga Forces under MoPA How it is now: Complete disintegration of Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (MoPA)


Kuwait FM visits Baghdad

Kuwait Foreign Minister Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on his inaugural visit to Iraq since assuming office last year, convened a high-level meeting with Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad.

During a joint press conference detailing the meeting, both parties announced progress in discussions on several longstanding issues between the two countries:

  • The establishment of a committee to supervise the demarcation of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti borders.
  • A proposed visit by a Kuwaiti delegation to deliberate on management of shared oil fields.
  • Actions against drug smuggling gangs involved in cross-border trade.

These contentious matters periodically escalate tensions between Iraq and Kuwait. Iraqi fishermen are routinely arrested by Kuwaiti and Iranian authorities in disputed waters, another topic purportedly addressed during the meeting.

While the bilateral relationship has experienced volatile periods over the past few decades, ties have notably improved since Iraq completed paying reparations for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait in 2022. Both nations are hopeful of moving beyond their fractious history and reaching agreements on security and fiscal issues. Whether the Kuwaiti foreign minister's visit signifies the first step in such an initiative remains unclear.

Fresh Turkish strikes on Kurdistan Region 

Local Kurdish media report new strikes by Turkey in Kurdistan's Akre region today. This comes only two days after a Turkish drone strike allegedly killed four people reportedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and injured one.

Turkey has amplified its campaigns against the PKK and forces it deems linked with the PKK in both Iraq and Syria in recent months. However, these operations come with a human cost, as civilians frequently become collateral damage.

According to KRG authorities, hundreds of villages have been evacuated as inhabitants flee violence in Iraq's border regions.
بەڤیدیۆ تورکیا جارێکی دیكە بوردومانی دەوروبەری گوندی باکورمانی ئاکرێ دەکات
Check out New York Times' excellent feature exploring how a cocktail of climate change, population boom, and political instability has turned Iraq into one of the world's most water-stressed nations. 

Now, Iraq finds itself in a dire situation where swathes of fertile farmland, tens of thousands of acres each year, are engulfed by desert. It's a country where water insecurity displaces thousands annually, and where tribes and communities regularly clash over dwindling water resources. This predicament is further aggravated by Turkey and Iran's numerous dam constructions, which along with climate change, have led to a 40% drop in the Tigris' water flow over the last three decades.

Today, local media is full of reports of widespread water shortages in several regions of the country, coinciding with persistent power blackouts from yesterday. This gives us a glimpse of how urgent and critical this issue has become for Iraq.

KDP forms its own mystery coalition for Kirkuk

The deputy head of KDP's Kirkuk-Garmian branch told K24 in an interview that KDP has formed a coalition with six Kurdish forces for the upcoming Kirkuk provincial elections. The deputy head did not disclose the names of these forces but described them as "nationalist, Islamist, and leftist."

When asked about the possibility of an alliance with the PUK, the official indicated that such a scenario is "highly unlikely." He also claimed the coalition has been finalized, but its registration with the IHEC has been delayed due to "complicated procedural requirements."

Two weeks prior, the PUK announced a comparable coalition composed of 13 parties for the same elections, including significant names like Gorran and the Kurdistan Justice Group (KJG).

The last provincial elections in 2013 saw all major Kurdish parties uniting under a single list known as "the Kurdistani alliance." However, due to disagreements between the KDP and the PUK, along with worsening relations between ruling and opposition parties, a united list has been ruled out for these elections.
According to VoA Kurdish, Lieutenant Colonel Bakhtiar Mohammed Sadiq, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Peshmerga, stated, "There's no communication between the PUK and KDP teams in the Peshmerga Ministry. There is no respect. The situation is very bad."

He was referring to the deputy minister of Peshmerga's order that the KDP should hold 57% of the share in the Peshmerga Ministry, with the PUK having 43%. Sadiq replied via an official document, stating the Deputy Minister lacks the authority to decide this and that the equal division between KDP and PUK was already agreed upon through political dealmaking.

"The Deputy Minister's decision will directly influence the memorandum of understanding's execution, signed by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, the relevant ministries, and the Coalition," he said. This confirms fears that disagreements between KDP and PUK may cause the ministry's reforms to stall or even reverse.

According to Sadiq, the deputy minister justified his decision in stating, "the order came from above and my party will not agree to 50 to 50 because we have more people, more parliamentary seats, and a larger region under our control." In response, the PUK pointed out the absence of a functioning parliament and the government's special stage.

Previously, VoA Kurdish reported that high-level US officials expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of Peshmerga reforms to both KDP and PUK during a visit to the region. The next steps remain uncertain as both parties appear unwilling to deescalate the situation.
ئەمینداری گشتی وەزارەتی پێشمەرگەی حکومەتی هەرێمی کوردستان ڕایگەیاند، پەیوەندی نێوان تیمی یەکێتی و پارتی لە ناو وەزارەتی پێشمەرگە زۆر خراپە، کاری پێکەوەیی نەماوە و یاسا و ڕێساکان پێشێل دەکرێن. لیوا ڕوکن بەختیار محەمەد، ئەمینداری گشتی وەزارەتی پێشمەرگە، بە دەنگی ئەمەریکای ڕاگەیاند"پەیوەندی...

Electoral commission extends party registration deadline

The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has extended the party and coalition registration deadline for the country's forthcoming provincial elections to Aug. 6,  the INA reports.

The provincial elections, set for Dec. 18, are the first for Iraq since 2013. They have been repeatedly postponed due to the Islamic State (IS) takeover and disagreements over the provincial councils' role and authority.

This extension was anticipated as many leading political parties continue their coalition formation negotiations for the upcoming elections. The IHEC's spokesperson told INA, however, that "this extension is final."

Morning briefing

Good morning, folks. Here are the headline news items for Sunday.

  • The PUK and KDP are engaged in a high-level meeting led by PUK head Bafel Talabani and KDP Political Office Executive Committee head Fazil Mirani in Sulaymaniyah. After the last meeting seemingly ended in failure, with Bafel visibly angry afterward, all eyes are on the outcome of today's meeting.
  • The Iraqi Electricity Ministry has announced a partial restoration of electricity in the country's southern and central regions late last night, following widespread blackouts due to a fire at a power station in Basrah.
  • Protests due to unpaid salaries are intensifying in the Kurdistan Region as the government fails to pay public sector employees for the months of June and July. Employees at the General Directorate of Sulaimaniyah Municipalities have locked their offices and announced a strike today. This action coincides with those of the Protection Committee of Protesting Teachers and Employees, which has announced its own measures against the salary delays at a press conference.