Sunday, Oct 26th, 2014

“It takes two to tango”: Joost Hiltermann on the KRG and Baghdad

Since 2002, Joost Hiltermann has managed a team of analysts based in the Middle and North Africa to conduct research and write policy-focused reports on factors that increase the risk of and drive armed conflict

By on Thursday, February 25th, 2010 - 587 words.

Joost Hiltermann

Since 2002, Joost Hiltermann has managed a team of analysts based in the Middle and North Africa to conduct research and write policy-focused reports on factors that increase the risk of and drive armed conflict. The crisis in Iraq is one of Crisis Group’s three priorities in fhe Middle East and they are focusing on the political transition, constitutional process, the situation of the Kurds, Kirkuk and other disputed territories,  and oil.

Here, Sarwar Chuchani interviews him about a variety of issues relating to Iraqi Kurdistan’s politics.

Chuchani: Do you believe the domestic and wider-Iraq policy-making of the Kurdish Regional Government will change after the coming elections in July?

Hiltermann: I don’t expect a major change, because the KDP and PUK are still the governing parties, with the KDP continuing to play the dominant role, and now even more so. However, they may have to be a bit more careful and responsible and transparent and accountable, now that they have a serious opposition movement looking over their shoulder.

Chuchani: Do you believe the Kurdish participation in multi-list Iraqi elections will weaken their position in Baghdad?

Hiltermann: It will not affect the Kurds’ position with regard to key questions concerning Kirkuk and other disputed territories, oil and gas, or the powers of the Kurdistan region. But it may have an impact on a host of other questions, such as most importantly the Iraqi presidency, unless – I suppose — the Kurdistani list make certain concessions to Goran that Goran is asking for. I don’t know whether they will be able to reach an agreement.

Chuchani: What is the debate over Kirkuk leading to?

Hiltermann: Hopefully to a peaceful, negotiated, compromise solution that can be sustainable.

Chuchani: Do you believe Kurdish parties are committed to the establish of the rule of law, democracy and human rights?

Hiltermann: I don’t know. But since they have said they are committed to this, they should be held to their word. In this respect, the opposition parties and the KRG’s international sponsors could play a constructive role. International pressure has certainly contributed to a certain progress on this front since 1991.

Chuchani: Who is responsible for the tension between KRG and Baghdad?

Hiltermann: It takes two to tango. In any case, this is not a matter of casting blame. This is a very serious conflict over serious issues. Both sides have a case. I hope they can solve it.

Chuchani: How should KRG deal with the PKK issue?

Hiltermann: First of all, the PKK is a concern for Turkey. Having seen that there is no military solution. Turkey is now turning toward political steps. This is positive. But it will need cooperation from the KRG, which the KRG may give depending on what it will get from Turkey. I see a potential deal, whereby the military conflict comes to an end, most PKK members in Iraq are able to return to Turkey and engage in politics and other civic activity, and the PKK leadership is settled in Iraqi Kurdistan or perhaps in third countries. But Turkey would have to take serious steps toward addressing some of the Kurds’ legitimate concerns in Turkey. That process is just starting.

Chuchani: How you see the future of Kurds in Iraq after the full withdrawal of the coalition forces?

Hiltermann: I hope that the US and UN will be able to mediate a peaceful settlement to the Kirkuk conflict before US troops leave. If it fails, relations between Baghdad and Erbil will remain tense, especially along the so-called “trigger” line, and this could lead to open conflict. Let’s hope not!

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sarwar salar chuchani

a freelance Kurdish journalist from iraqi Kurdistan

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