The Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government are said to be close to reaching an agreement to normalize the situation in the disputed multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk.
The normalization will include the security and military situation as well as agricultural land ownership disputes. It is expected that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which left the province following the October 16, 2017 events to return and reclaim all its offices and headquarters there.
The new developments came in light of three-month-long negotiations between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and KDP negotiating teams and the federal government under the supervision of the United Nations.
Shakhawan Abdulla, member of the KDP negotiating team, speaking to KirkukNow, said, “There is a very good level of understanding and the talks regarding the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk were productive. We intend to reveal the outcomes of the talks to the public in a very near future.”
He indicated that the KDP is set to return to Kirkuk for the first time since October 2017 when Iraqi federal forces retook control of territories disputed by Baghdad and Erbil as a repercussion for a referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region.
According to KirkukNow sources the talks included the security and military dossier as well as disputes over agricultural land ownership.
“The return of the KDP to Kirkuk is bound to the normalization of the situation and the end of military rule there,” Shakhawan Abdulla told KirkukNow.
An informed source indicated that “according to the progress achieved in the negotiations, it is expected that the KDP return to Kirkuk by mid-July.”
Observers say it is very likely that the security dossier in the center of Kirkuk be handed over to local police –an approach widely supported by the UN- while the Iraqi army, the federal police, the Kurdish Peshmarga forces and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMF) undertake security responsibilities for the surrounding areas of Kirkuk.
Meanwhile, the disputes over land ownership claims will be left to the parliament to resolve.
Khalid Shwani, a PUK senior official and member of the PUK’s negotiating team said, “Serious talks have been taking place over the past three months under the direct supervision of the UN to normalize the situation in Kirkuk. Good progress have been achieved in the security and military dossiers in addition to the land disputes.”
“I hope that a final agreement would be reached very soon concerning the issue of Kirkuk,” he concluded.