CAIRO - 14 September 2017: The opening of Parliament has been postponed until tomorrow, when MPs are to meet for the first time in almost two years in an extraordinary sitting of Parliament.
At the top of the agenda is the independence referendum, and more than 60 MPs have called for the necessary legislature to be passed to approve the vote scheduled on September 25.
Members of the Kirkuk Provincial Council vote on the referendum in Kirkuk, Iraq August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
The first session will focus “on the question of referendum and self-determination right,” said Jaafar Iminiki, deputy speaker.
The session was postponed to comply with legal procedures.
Parliament must be held “48 hours after the call for assembly,” Iminiki said to Rudaw in an interview on Wednesday, adding that “the session is open and all the parties can attend it.”
This week has been dominated by a flurry of cross-party meetings and negotiations, as those in power attempt to reconcile their differences and revive the legislature.
Tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Gorran have run high since Parliament was shut in October 2014, and it is still not clear whether Gorran will take part in Friday’s sitting.
“The postponement of the parliament session was upon our request. We told the American delegation the parliament should be postponed until Sunday, but later they said it would be postponed until Friday,” said Abdulrazaq Sharif, a member of Gorran’s National Assembly, to Rudaw.
“It is not clear whether or not we take part in the parliament session,” Sharif added.
Gorran member Yousif Mohammed is the speaker of Parliament, which may cause complications if Gorran decide against attending.
In other developments, on Thursday the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has requested for the Iraqi Parliament to remove the governor of Kirkuk from his position, according to a statement from the parliament speaker’s office.
A still image taken from a video shows Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi speaking as he makes a statement on Tal Afar, in Baghdad, Iraq August 20, 2017. Al Iraqiya TV/ via REUTERS TV
No reason was given for why al-Abadi requested for Kirkuk Governor, Najmaldin Karim, to be removed from his position, however Karim has been a vocal supporter of the independence referendum.
Speaking on Rudaw’s Rudawi Emro program on Wednesday night, Karim dismissed the idea that parliament would rescind their support for him.
“In the last election, I won more than half the votes of the people and I will serve them until the next election, or as long as they want me,” he said.
The oil-rich Kirkuk is a major point of contention between the Kurds and the Iraqi government, and could prove costly in the Kurds’ struggle for independence.
In recent developments,
to remove the governor of Kirkuk from office following the request from al-Abadi.
Turkey has continued its hostile attitude towards the Kurds, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, that
if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq insisted on holding the independence referendum.
"The KRG should be aware that there will most certainly be a price to pay for insisting on its approach for a referendum despite all our friendly recommendations," the ministry said in a statement.
"We are calling on the KRG to act with common sense and to give up its mistaken approach as soon as possible," it added.
Brief History of Kirkuk and its Black Gold:
The relationship between the prevailing central Iraqi government and the Kurds is very delicate, and is filled with controversy and heartbreak. First codified in the Treaty of Sevres (1920), Article 64 stipulated that the Kurdistan region was scheduled to hold a referendum within its governed areas in order to determine its fate, which notably included the Mosul Province. Yet, owing to a lack of international consensus over jurisdiction rights, the Kurdistan region was partitioned in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), and was to be governed by four competing states.
The Kurds’ direct experience with the great nation-state-building game being played out by the British and French as part of their divide-and-rule strategy, meant they have faced huge challenges in their quest for statehood.
On both sides of the isle, oppression, persecution and betrayal have coincided with the changing political status of the Kurdish region in Iraq, making all parties wary and untrustworthy.
Baghdad’s authority over Kurdistan has been overwhelmingly abused. Many violent confrontations broke out between the Kurds and the Iraqi government, and the attempted Kurdish genocide exists as one of the worst domestic atrocities committed under Saddam Hussein’s infamously brutal dictatorship.
At the centre of Kurdistan’s appeal for Baghdad is Kirkuk. The substantive Kirkuk oil fields, along with the highly fertile landscape, have made Iraqi Kurdistan a valued territory.
The oil-rich province claimed by both the central government in Baghdad, and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
In an attempt to dominate the resources, Saddam imposed an ‘Arabization’ campaign in Kurdistan in the 1970s. Kurds were being displaced and replaced with Arabs in an attempt to establish a stronger powerbase in the oil-rich territory in Northern Iraq/Kurdistan.
By the mid-late 1970s, over 250,000 Kurds were forcibly displaced and evacuated, with their villages destroyed to be replaced with Arab settlements.
With the pressures of the 8 year-long war with Iran, beginning in 1980, Saddam demanded control of the resources in the north, and a violent conflict which developed between 1986 and 1989 – the al-Anfal campaign. This culminated in the notorious chemical attack in Halabja, which indiscriminately killed up to 5,000 people.
Kirkuk lays on the disputed Iraqi-Kurdish border, and to this day remains a focal point of contention. In contrast to much of Kurdistan, Kirkuk is very diverse, with Kurdish people only making up an estimated 50 percent of the population.
With the complex battle against the Islamic State, the Kurdish Peshmerga have taken control of several of Kirkuk’s oil fields. In a deal with Baghdad, these were conceded to the central Iraqi government in a messy agreement which, in return, Kurdistan was to receive a share of the Iraqi central government’s budget.
Yet, promises have been broken and trust is non-existent.
The Kurds insist that the referendum will decide Kirkuk’s status, and recent developments show that Baghdad is doing everything in its power to prevent Kirkuk falling into the control of the Kurds.
In other news:
Thousands of people gathered in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, on Wednesday, in a display of their support for the upcoming historical referendum on independence.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at a news conference ahead of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated calls for an “enhanced dialogue” between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, while speaking during a press conference prior to the opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly on Wednesday.
Iraq is facing “extremely decisive moments in its history,” he continued.
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