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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Baghdad lists 13 preconditions for talks with Kurds

Besides annulling independence referendum, Erbil must hand over control of border crossings and airports and all revenues from oil and customs duties

Horsemen take part in celebrations of the Iraqi Kurdish flag day in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, on December 17, 2017. Safin Hamed / AFP
Horsemen take part in celebrations of the Iraqi Kurdish flag day in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, on December 17, 2017. Safin Hamed / AFP

Iraq's central government has set out 13 conditions for the Kurdistan region to meet before “real” negotiations can begin to resolve a crisis triggered by a Kurdish independence referendum.

“The central government is serious about solving the issues between Erbil and Baghdad, but the latter has to fulfil its constitutional obligations,” said Saad Al Hadithi, spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister.

Iraq’s Kurdish region voted for independence in a symbolic yet controversial referendum that was held in September despite Baghdad’s insistence that it violated the constitution. The central government responded by halting all international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan and sending troops to retake disputed areas held by Kurdish forces outside of the autonomous region. The measures have left the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil grappling with an economic and political crisis.

Mr Al Hadithi said on Sunday that the preconditions laid down by prime minister Haider Al Abadi were "in accordance with the Iraqi constitution”.

They include a demand that the KRG issue a handwritten note annulling the result of the referendum. The Kurdish government has said it respected a ruling by Iraq's federal court that the referendum was illegal, but has not formally renounced it.

The central government is also asking Erbil to guarantee that it will not seek independence in future.

The Kurds must also hand over control of all border crossings in Kurdish territory, including Faysh Khabur and Ibrahim Khalil on the border with Turkey, as well as of the airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah.

Baghdad is also insisting that Kurdish officials "are not allowed to leave the country without Baghdad's permission".

The Kurdish government said the list of demands “demonstrates that Baghdad is still considering a military option against the KRG”.

The central government also wants the KRG to hand over all future federal revenues, including those from oil sales and customs duties.

The two sides have clashed over territory and sharing of oil revenue since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Baghdad has stopped central funds to Kurdistan for the past three years.

Earlier this month the UN envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, stressed the need “to hold technical and political negotiations between both sides to reach solutions to all outstanding issues”.

Members of the European parliament also have urged Baghdad to hold talks with the Kurdistan region, but echo the Kurdish position that the referendum was not a declaration of independence but rather the basis "for the start of a conversation".

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