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March 30, 2009 Mahmood Osman: the solution for PKK problem is in Ankara

Kurdishaspect.com

Dr. Mahmood Osman, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament, is currently in the United States to participate in the 21st annual conference of the Kurdish National Congress of North America held in Washington D.C. on March 27th and 28th. Kurdish Aspect took this opportunity to interview Dr. Osman on a whole of issues that affect Kurds in the region. 

Kurdish Aspect:  What is the latest update on the issues between central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government?

Dr. Osman:  The problems have not been resolved. The five committees that they formed to address the issues have not reached solutions because they have not held any meetings for the last four or five months. The latest thing that happened is when (Prime Minister) Nechirvan Barzani went to Baghdad to meet with the (Turkish President) Abdullah Gul and also met with (Prime Minister) Nuri Maliki when and that has been all. The issues have hit a stalemate right now, but there are hopes that the (two sides) will meet again. 

Kurdish Aspect:   Could you elaborate on the main problems between the two sides? 

Dr. Osman:   There are many problems; issues of military and security, financial issues, Kurds says that Mailiki takes unilateral decisions, while Maliki accuses Kurds of violating the Constitution. There are problems that are related to the oil contracts (that have been signed by KRG). There is the problems of foreign affairs; Maliki says that KRG is doing whatever it likes and that (Kurdish) leaders go abroad as they like and they don’t inform them (Maliki), at the same time KRG accuses him of making agreements with Turkey and Iran unilaterally. There are a lot of problems and there are disputes between them. There are two things that bring the Iraqis together one is consensus and the other is the Constitution. Of course in implementing them there would be issues that might emerge. And you should not forget that the fights between Sunnis and Shias has ended, Maliki has reached an agreement with the Americans and the security situation has improved, as a result Maliki considers himself more powerful also some of the things that Kurds did he accepted in the past, now he doesn’t not accept them anymore.  He says that Kurds have gained many achievements and they have trespassed, and that there should be limits. He wants to establish a strong central government but Kurds want (Iraqi) regional governments to have more power. There are important issues that need to be addressed.  

Kurdish Aspect:   Why they don’t sit down and discuss the issues? In a past interview you said that the Kurdish leaders have not met with Maliki for several months? Why it is so hard to meet face to face and discuss the problems? 

Dr. Osman:   Well, in general Iraqis are difficult in sitting down and discuss issues. The Iraqi officials act like that. It is not easy to bring them together to hold talks and discuss issues. Sometimes they are in disputes for two months on who should go first to meet the other side. The issue in this case is Maliki’s government is in no rush and has not made an initiative to address the issues and at the same time KRG has not made any initiative so far. But this might end after the President of Kurdish Region returns from aboard and gradually meetings might be held. It is important to resume meetings because it has been around five months that there have not been any meetings.

Kurdish Aspect:   The issues of “disputed areas” and the implementation of article 140 have been topics of many discussions and disagreements. The issues seem to be getting more complicated as news reports say that the Iraqi army is moving towards those areas. One example that is of concern of Kurds in Kikruk is the deployment of the 12th Division of the Iraqi Army in the areas and the appointment of Major General Abdul Amir Zaidi. Residents accuse him of being a former military official in Saddam’s army and are scared of him. What is the position of the Kurdish leadership on these issues?   

Dr. Osman:  The Iraqi government considers the disputed areas as areas under its control, because that article 140 has not been implemented. On the other side, Kurds believe that that even though these areas are currently under the authority of the Iraqi government, but there are Kurds who live there. So, if the Iraqi army has the right to be deployed to these areas, we also have the right to send peshmaraga forces to defend our people. The (central) government says that only the (Iraqi) army should be deployed in those areas. That is one of the very important issues between Kurds and central government. Regarding the issues of Major General Abdul Amir Zaidi and the 12th Division of the Iraqi army, it is true that people are concerned about it; not only Kurds but also Turkmans and they accuse him of being pro-Arab. There are also similar issues in Mousl. One of the five committees is a committee to address these kinds of issues.

Kurdish Aspect:  but as you mentioned, so far the committees have not held any meetings. Do you think that these issues are more complicated now? 

Dr. Osman:   Yes, there are more complicated because the committees were supposed to finish their work in two weeks. But the problem is because the (parties’) leaderships have not held any meetings; the committees have yet to hold sessions. The committees are formed of people who belong to the political parties, and if the leaderships don’t meet then the committee won’t meet.

Kurdish Aspect:  But if the other parties avoid these meetings, has the Kurdish leadership pressed the other parties for meetings?  

Dr. Osman:   The members of the committees are from the Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council, the Islamic Party of Iraq, Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Kurds cannot put pressure on the other sides to hold meetings. All the factions should agree on meeting. 

Kurdish Aspect:   What is the situation of article 140? 

Dr. Osman:  There are a lot of obstacles in front of this issue. One of them is that many Arabs and Turkmans claim that the timetable for implementing this article is over and as the result the article is dead. But in legal terms, this is not true because the article won’t die and when it is not implemented within the timetable that has been set then the time would be extended. On the other side the United Nations has become involved in the issue and its position is that there should be consensus in resolving these issues and that all the components Kurds, Arabs and Turkmans should agree on a solution. This might mean that there won’t be a referendum. Another one of the five committees is to address this issue. If there is no political agreement between the central government and KRG implementing article 140 and organizing referendum (in the disputed areas) would not be easy to do.  There is a committee to implement article 140 and they have budget to do so. Their budget was $100 million, but the committee had asked for $500 million.  The parliament decided to give them $300 million. I can’t say that they don’t do anything, but their work is slow because the central government is not very cooperative.

Kurdish Aspect:  What do you mean when you say that the central government is not very cooperative?

Dr. Osman:  For example when the committee demands something from the Prime Minister, instead of answering the committee in a week he would answer them in two months. The government doesn’t say that article 140 doesn’t exist, but there have been so many delays that they have affected the article. 

Kurdish Aspect:  But do these delays happen only in regard with article 140 or all the government’s work are slow?

Dr. Osman:  All the work is slow. All of it has to do with the political situation, I mean because the central government and KRG are not on good terms then the work won’t go smoothly. In general there are delays and the issues have got more complicated. 

Kurdish Aspect:  One of the other issues in the region is Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which seems that eventually KRG has been dragged to get involved in it. What do you think the problems are?

Dr. Osman:   The solution for PKK problem is in Ankara. Where did PKK come from? PKK is the result of state-terrorism policy of Turkey against Kurds which doesn’t recognize Kurdish identity and rights and it has resulted in armed conflict. When the government fights Kurds, then it is a fact that Kurds or PPK will fight back. The solution is in Ankara and when Turkey changes its policy then gradually this issue will be resolved very easily and Kurdistan Region would help it. But the problem is Turkey insists on its aggressive policy and insists that Kurdistan Region is involved in the issue and expel PKK from Kurdistan Region. This might result in Kurdish infighting. This is a huge problem. What is important to us is that there are 20 million Kurds in Turkey which are entitled to rights. Read the Turkish Constitution and you will see that it says anyone who lives on this land (Turkey) is considered a Turk. There are many suppressive acts. There is no solution for PKK neither in Hawler nor in Baghdad. The solutions are in Ankara. But Turkey doesn’t want to resolve it peacefully and this is the core of the problem. Turkey, Americans, and Maliki’s government all are putting pressure on KRG to expel PKK in its areas. Expelling PKK would result in fighting.  It is complicated.

Kurdish Aspect:   Do you think that all the sides that you mentioned have been successful in dragging KRG into the PKK issue? As you know it seems that KRG is getting more and more involved in this issue, for example some leaders even call PKK a terrorist group.

Dr. Osman:  Yes that is right. But PKK is not a terrorist group and whoever says that is making a mistake. I believe that Turkish state-terrorism and PKK is a reaction to that. Even if PKK is considered a terrorist group, then the big terrorist is Ankara and PKK is just a small one. I believe that this is a political issue, but the problem is Turkey considers it a security issue. If Turkey decides that it will deal with it as a political issue then it can be resolved. But as long as it considers it a security issue and believes that fighting it on the both sides of the border (inside Turkey and inside Iraq) then I don’t see any solution ever.  We should ask why PKK is in Iraqi Kurdistan. The answer is that people have been fleeing the Turkish government led fights. If Turkey decides not to fight and grants a general amnesty, I believe that majority of these people (PKK) would return to their country. But the problem is Turkey doesn’t even want to grant a general amnesty. Unfortunately because of the support from the U.S. and the Iraqi government Turkey has been encouraged to continue its policy. The solution is not just by labeling (PKK) a terrorist group and call for expulsion. But I think we have right which is we can demand PKK not to use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base to attack Turkey. That is our right. There is a problem inside Turkey and they have to solve it, because fighting is not the answer for these problems.  They (Turkey and PKK) have been fighting each other for a quarter of a century without any decisive results. 

Kurdish Aspect:  One last topic we would like you to talk about is the lack of a united discourse among the Kurdish leaders. For example you listen to President Massoud Barzani he talks about independence as a right for Kurds, but President Talabani considers it a dream of poets. Also sometimes when you listen to Kurdish officials in Baghdad one might think there is no problem between KRG and the central government, but at the same time KRG officials constantly accuse the central government of avoiding dealing with serious issues that involve Kurds. Do you think that this lack of united discourse is hurting Kurdish position? 

Dr. Osman:   Yes, I think. But we should know that the disagreements are not huge. Talabani talks as the Iraqi president and because of that he has to take into consideration some concepts that are suitable for all Iraq. President Barzani is responsible for the Kurdish Region and he has to talk in a way that reflects the fact that he defends Kurdistan region. Sometimes you can hear differences in what they say and sometimes people will exploit those differences. But the fact is in their final discourse is united. 

Kurdish Aspect:   In this short trip to the United States, what is your impression of the state of the Kurdish issue especially under the new U.S. administration? 

Dr. Osman:   We have tried to do as much as we can. Obama claims that he will bring change and we hope that we will see some changes that (positively) affect Kurds. 

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