UNAMI chief calls for 'equal opportunities' in Kurdistan's upcoming elections


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SULAIMANI — Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), urged leaders in the Kurdistan Region to bridge the political divide ahead of October’s parliamentary elections, stating divisions across party lines have only worsened over the past year.

Plasschaert spoke out against the "toxicity of political infighting” in the Kurdistan Region during a briefing at the UN Security Council on Tuesday (May 17).

She also expressed grave concern over the political deadlock in Baghdad, the security situation in regards to Turkey and Iran’s armed incursions on Iraqi territory, the recent hostilities in Sinjar and the current tensions between Erbil and the Iraqi federal government.

The UNAMI chief said Kurdish leadership should concentrate on solutions for all components in the Kurdistan Region – Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah.

"It is utmost importance to level the electoral playing field – with all political actors, big or small, enjoying equal opportunities,” she stated.

Plasschaert described the current dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil over the Kurdistan Region’s oil sales as "a sorry pattern of ad-hoc negotiations.”

Tension renewed between the federal government and Erbil following the federal supreme court’s verdict in February that ruled the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) oil and gas law unconstitutional.

Plasschaert said she had spoken with both sides over the issue and believed there was a way out, but insisted an "institutionalized” resolution was necessary.

The lack of an institutional mechanism and internal rivalries on both sides hindered a resolution over Erbil and Baghdad’s oil issue, Plasschaert said adding Baghdad’s failure to form a government seven months after last year’s elections has come at a steep price.

"It excuses a political deadlock while non-state armed groups fire rockets with apparent freedom and impunity,” she declared. "It excuses a political stalemate while ordinary people suffer.

Speaking on Iran’s ballistic missile attack on Erbil in March, the UNAMI chief said Tehran and Baghdad had chosen dialogue and would not escalate the matter. She referred to Turkey and Iran’s cross-border bombardments in the Kurdistan Region as a "very risky way to advance interests” that weakens Iraq.

Responding to the situation in Sinjar, Plasschaert said she continued to encourage the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement signed in 2020. However, she insisted a stable government was necessary to take such steps that would allow displaced residents to return.

"Sinjar’s safety and security should be front and center at all times,” she stated.

(NRT Digital Media)