The US Ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday called on Kurdish parties in the region to unite during this time of crisis and rearrange their ranks, noting that the existing rift negatively affects dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq.
“We will soon hold meetings with Iraqi officials to help resolve differences between Erbil and Baghdad, and both sides will begin serious talks to address outstanding issues,” Douglas Silliman, the top American diplomat in Baghdad, told reporters at a press conference in the Iraqi capital.
Ties between Erbil and Baghdad have considerably deteriorated following the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum, which saw an overwhelming majority vote in favor of statehood.
The US has maintained its ‘one-Iraq’ policy since the independence vote and emphasizes the importance of the Kurdistan Region “as part of a unified federal Iraq.”
Silliman revealed Washington was “exerting pressure on Baghdad” to pay the salaries of government employees in the Kurdistan Region and to come to an agreement on the subject of international border crossings. He also stressed the need for stability and security “in coordination with the [KRG]” to return to Iraq.
As a show of good faith, the KRG offered to freeze the results of the referendum, but Baghdad refused, demanding a full annulment instead. Kurdish officials have also repeatedly stated their readiness to start a dialogue, with the Iraqi government showing no real response so far.
Silliman added that Washington was displeased with the “political rift between Kurdish parties.” He described it as an obstacle to constructive talks with Baghdad, saying it has a “negative effect” on possible negotiations.
“We have no doubt both the Iraqi government and the [KRG] want to resolve their disagreements and issues, especially with regards to Kirkuk, and we have seen serious steps being taken in that direction.”
Silliman also discussed the need for the Iraqi elections to be held on schedule and for all parties to abide by the Iraqi Constitution. Kurdish officials have consistently called on Baghdad to implement and respect the constitution fully, and for disputes to be resolved within its framework.