US mediates between KDP, PUK to defuse escalating tensions

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Tensions between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have reached a critical stage in terms of the political, governmental, and parliamentary sectors which the United States has offered to mediate.

What happened before the visit of the White House National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk to the Kurdistan Region?

The PUK ministerial team have recently boycotted the cabinet meetings in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), saying that they are concerned about “revenue issues and poor governance” in Sulaimani province.

However, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, representing the KDP share, rejects the PUK’s claims, maintaining that the PUK is avoiding the “assassination” of Hawkar Jaff.

Jaff was a senior commander of the PUK’s Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) who was killed in Erbil on October 7 last year when a bomb detonated on his vehicle while he was with his family.

In an apparent response to the remarks made by the PUK, Masrour Barzani said that revenues and Sulaimani’s financial situation have nothing to do with the matter.

“What exists is that we are being asked to suppress the assassination of Hawkar Jaff, which is an unjust demand and the citizens of the Region should not accept it,” Barzani said in a statement.

Additionally, Barzani called for the suspects to be handed over to the court and a joint committee of the relevant institutions to be formed in the presence of the international community and parliamentary representatives.

In a statement, the PUK ministerial team described the Prime Minister as attempting to emphatically accuse the party and its top authorities of involvement in the assassination.

“It was the PUK that requested a joint investigation and asked the international community to join the probe,” the PUK insisted in a statement.

“However, the Prime Minister’s security agency quickly published their scenario and wanted to make it the de facto… cutting the entire CTG budget,” said the statement.

Regarding the financial problems in Sulaimani, Barzani said that the PUK ministerial team wants expenditures centralized.

Barzani insisted that the collection of domestic revenue and border crossings should be centralized.

“There should be coordination between the Ministries of Finance, Interior and Peshmerga to prevent smuggling and embezzlement of border revenues, and the formation of a joint force is essential for this purpose,” Barzani added.

In response to this, the PUK asks “who knows how much Ibrahim Khalil [border crossing] earns? Why don’t the committees mentioned by the Prime Minister go to control the revenue of Ibrahim Khalil, Haji Omeran and other border crossings?”

There has been a lot of debate between the KDP and the PUK regarding the Region’s border crossings. Masrour Barzani says “there is a decision from the Council of Ministers to send joint forces to the border crossings, but the PUK has previously prevented it and threatened that if this is done, civil war will break out.”

Regarding Sulaimani’s financial crisis, the PUK accuses the Prime Minister of “imposing a blockade on the province.”

“What does the blockade mean to you? How do you describe the non-payment of financial entitlements in Sulaimani? How would you describe the delay in salary payments in Sulaimani and Erbil?” the PUK questioned the Prime Minister.

“There is no transparency in oil revenues, and they have become a curse instead of a blessing,” it added.

Days later, the tensions were followed by the visist of the White House National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk, but

A few days later, the White House National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, visited the region.

Following a series of meetings between McGurk and the KRG’s top leaders, the KDP Political Bureau announced on Wednesday that it would meet with the PUK and other parties, asking the Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani to set a date for parliamentary elections, which were supposed to take place in August 2022.

In an indirect call for the PUK ministerial team headed by KRG’s Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani to return to cabinet meetings, the KDP stated that issues would be resolved during the meetings.

According to Zoom sources, the US message to the PUK and KDP was that they must resolve their problems and not create unrest in the region.

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