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UN Mission Urges Baghdad and Erbil to Start Political Negotiations

The UN Mission urged the governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan region to start talks after a court ruled Erbil’s independence referendum unconstitutional.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq on Tuesday urged the governments of Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region to begin negotiations to resolve outstanding issues between them.

“This should include measures that will allow the establishment of federal authority over the external border crossings of Iraq located in the KR-I; and the early re-opening of the international airports in Erbil and Suleimaniya to international flights,” UNAMI said in a statement.

The mission noted that talks should also include the payment of salaries to Kurdistan public workers, management of oil exports and the share of the Iraqi federal budget allocated for the Kurdistan Region.

The issues are at the heart of years of disputes between Baghdad and Erbil and in part prompted former Kurdistan Regional Government leader Masoud Barzani to call an independence referendum in September.

The Iraq federal supreme court on Monday ruled that the September 25 referendum was unconstitutional, effectively cancelling its effects. The court had already nullified the results of the non-binding vote, which the KRG said last week it accepted.

Mr. Barzani resigned as president in the aftermath of the referendum, leaving his nephew Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani with the bulk of the region’s power. The prime minister on Monday asked for a third party to mediate any talks between Erbil and Baghdad.

Following the court ruling, Masoud Barzani said the court has no legal grounds to issue opinions because it was established prior to the ratification of the federal constitution in 2005, and was set to be abolished by a law that was never passed.

In a statement provided to The Globe Post, Mr. Barzani said: “There is no legal or constitutional body which has the power to declare that the votes of 3 million people are ‘unconstitutional,’ because the legitimacy of government itself stems from the people.”

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