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Note 13 Oct: Latest signal 16 Oct 2017 as situation has considerably evolved since 11 Oct, showing the essential fluid character of the dynamics ate work.
A flurry of diplomatic moves, visits and consultations is taking place around the Iraqi Kurdistan Independence issue (6 to 8 October).
Russia, which actions we identified previously as a major unknown to assess how the dynamics would probably evolve around Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence, has now lifted this uncertainty, as publicised on 7 October 2017 through an interview by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov with Sputnik (see signal below).
According to the interview and the way it is worded, Russia both recognises the referendum and its result, reasserts its commitment to the Iraqi Kurds, but without alienating Baghdad. Russia’s commitment to stabilisation in the region is therefore reasserted, while Russia also reassured the Kurds that they would not be once more betrayed and abandoned. The stake Russia has in Iraqi Kurdistan, notably around oil, as Rosneft and the Kurdistan Regional government (KRG) are about to sign an agreement for the construction project of Kurdistan Region’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure, has further given Russia supplementary weight and stake in developments around the Iraqi Kurdistan independence.
Most probably relatedly and following this strong signal sent by Russia – as well as highly certain behind-the-scene diplomatic work – Kurdish Prime Minister Barzani of the KRG met successively with two of Iraq’s three vice-presidents on 7 October and Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri in Erbil on 8 October. Although none had any official mandate, as recalled by Baghdad on 8 October, these shows that negotiations are ongoing, and part of “consultations” as nonetheless acknowledged by Baghdad.
The current Kurdish position is that they are “ready for dialogue with Baghdad ‘without preconditions from any side in a defined time frame.'” (Barzani). They also point out that neighbours – i.e. Turkey and Iran – should not be dragged into the issue as this only complexifies the problem.
Baghdad for its part, reasserting it did not want to trigger a new war, wants that “any dialogue between the two sides should be under ‘the framework of the [Iraqi] constitution” that stipulates protecting the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.'”
Original solutions may be created, that would respect all parties’ aims, for example modelled upon the British Commonwealth, or similar. It is highly likely that Russia will weigh in to see a peaceful and constructive solution being found.
Two major uncertainties are now likely to play out. First, Turkey, could insist in seeing further Kurdish independence – whatever its shape – as an existential threat. The danger is here mitigated by a history of good relations between Turkey and the Iraqi KRG (which is different from the history of relations with the Syrian Kurds), by Russia and Turkey relations as well as by the latest spat and tension between Turkey and the U.S.. Second, an always possible erratic American moves, as they see their influence in the region withering away, could stoke tension and derail a still fragile improvement of the situation.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has commented on its plans for developing relations with Iraqi Kurdistan following an independence referendum. MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia will continue economic interaction with Iraqi Kurdistan in coordination with authorities in Baghdad, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Sputnik on Saturday.
Successful implementation of the project under discussion will enable Rosneft to play a leading role in the building and expanding Kurdistan Region’s gas transport infrastructure and create synergy with existing projects for development of the oil and gas fields of the 5 blocks awarded to the Company in the region.
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