International Crisis Group lays out arrangements to avoid Baghdad-Erbil potential conflicts

December 20, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Kirkuk- Iraqi forces retake disputed territory of Prde, 23-10-2017 Photo: KirkukNow


The International Crisis Group (ICG) is proposing the revival of UN-led mediation to ease tensions between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) after Iraqi over disputed territories, particularly oil-rich Kirkuk.

The tensions broke out after Iraqi forces retook control of the disputed territories in October 2017, in response to a Kurdish  independence referendum earlier in September.

The (ICG) in its report, published on December 14, suggests that “The UN should revive its stillborn mediation effort of a decade ago and work with regional and international partners to bring the two sides to the table and settle the issues dividing them. In particular, it should work to reach a permanent deal on the disputed territories.”

According to the report, “The new administrations in Baghdad and Erbil and the appointment of a new special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq provide an opening to move boldly on one of Iraq’s most enduring and divisive issues: the status of disputed territories and the determination of the Kurdish region’s borders.”

Kirkuk- Iraqi forces retake disputed territory of Prde, 23-10-2017 Photo: KirkukNow

Citing a recent study by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) on disputed territories, which revealed that many people in these areas would prefer an in-between status for these districts that would preserve their diversity and intercommunal harmony, the report concluded that such a goal “would require a series of local power-sharing and joint security arrangements, as well as an overall revenue-sharing deal between the federal government and the KRG.”

The (ICG) report urges the incoming UNAMI chief, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, to start by “testing the political waters, increasing staff dedicated to the issue and developing a strategy for addressing it.”

For the Kurds, (ICG) says, “The referendum in September 2017 has left the PUK and KDP internally fraught and divided against each other in their approach to Baghdad. Each has a faction that supported the referendum and another faction that either publicly or quietly opposed it. The opponents within both the KDP and PUK, whose political stars have risen in the wake of the referendum’s fallout, express readiness to engage in political negotiations with Baghdad over the disputed territories.”

However the report added that, “Baghdad and Erbil are not the only voices that matter in resolving the disputed territories’ status. While both have a stake in the demarcation of a permanent boundary, the local population has an equally important stake in these territories’ stability and prosperity.”

The (ICG) in its report believes that “Negotiating a political settlement is a sensible move now that the local and international environments are both conducive to a new UN-led initiative,”.

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.


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