Talabani not advising Kurdish independence

Talabani not advising Kurdish independence

Talabani not advising Kurdish independence

Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Maliki (L), Iraqi President Talabani and KRG President Barzani are seen in this 2009 photo. AP photo

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said the independence of the Kurdish people is not on the agenda for now since they enjoy their rights under the existing political system.

“Not only is independence not possible, but also now it is in the interest of the Kurdish people to remain within the framework of Iraq,” Talabani said, when asked about the independence of Kurds in the region. Speaking to the Al Jazeera network, Talabani said small countries cannot survive under the current conditions, while insisting that the interests of the Kurds must be preserved. “You know this era, this century, is not the era of small countries, it is [an era] of big unions. Look to Europe, they are trying to reunite. So it is within the framework of a democratic federal Iraq that we are engaging in all activities, and we have all kinds of freedom and we have all possibilities, but we must be realistic. A politician who wants to serve his people must lead people in a way that serves their interests.”

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani recently accused Iraq’s prime minister of monopolizing power, and said he would hold a referendum, without specifically indicating the possibility of independence, if disputes over power-sharing could not be resolved.

The president also gave an example of what could happen if Iraq’s Kurds were to declare independence. “Imagine the Kurdish Parliament decided to be independent. Even if none of Turkey, Syria, Iraq or Iran fought the new state with arms, but simply closed the borders, how could anyone get there? So we must be realistic, we are enjoying our rights now,” Talabani said.

He also responded to criticisms that Sunnis are isolated in Iraqi politics. “Some people are saying the Sunnis are isolated, which is not true. I am Sunni. Look at the Iraqi government, the president is Sunni, the speaker is Sunni, the deputy prime minister is Sunni,” Talabani said, without specifically referring to fugitive Vice President’s Tariq al-Hashemi’s recnt remarks accusing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite government of waging a systematic campaign against Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

‘Some mistakes have been made’

The president also said that al-Maliki’s government may have made some mistakes, when asked if the prime minister is monopolizing power. “I think some mistakes have been made. There are some shortcomings, but he is not the only one responsible. I am also responsible. I am responsible for doing everything I can to safeguard the constitution,” he said, touching on the recent political crisis with al-Hashemi. “We need to reach a consensus about this problem. Maybe some of his bodyguards committed some crimes, but al-Hashemi is still the vice president. He has not been sentenced, and until he is sentenced any man is considered to be innocent. He has not been convicted,” Talabani said. Al-Hashemi is wanted by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government on terrorism charges, for allegedly running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials, and security forces.