'Partner for cooperation'

American forces should stay, says PUK leader

BAGHDAD — Bafel Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, emphasized on Monday the importance of American forces feeling safe and staying in Iraq, stating that Baghdad is not an enemy to the Kurds and highlighting his positive perception of Baghdad’s openness toward him.

During his speech at the Rafidain Dialogue Forum, Talabani said, “I am not aware of the reasons behind America’s decision to withdraw, but it is important for the American and British armies to stay here and to have new military bases.”

He highlighted that Americans are guests in Iraq and should feel secure, underlining the need to view Baghdad not as an enemy but as a partner for cooperation, and urged Kurds to adopt this perspective. “There is openness from Baghdad towards me,” Talabani noted, indicating a positive relationship with the federal government.

Regarding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Talabani stated, “The PKK are not my enemies, I have been in touch with some of them. We do not have enemies and would like to work with everyone.”

On the topic of intra-party competition, Talabani acknowledged it as natural and emphasized the importance of not attacking parties based on competition. However, he highlighted the necessity for restraint when a party misuses government resources.

He clarified that his party has not supported any armed faction against Turkey, asserting the Kurdish parliament’s legal authority to assist states in the region in combating ISIS or any other threat, as part of their duty.

Talabani lamented the loss of three members the elite unit killed in drone attacks and called on Turkey to review its security and intelligence work, urging it not to view them as enemies.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan remains open to dialogue and communication to clarify positions and reach understandings with any party, ‘without making concessions.’

He pointed out the plight of Yazidis unable to return to Sinjar and the need for the government to hold accountable ISIS soldiers who killed Yazidis and then returned to their cities in Iraq

Talabani believes Washington has a good relationship with Iraq and advocates for continued bilateral discussions, fair treatment of all religious, ethnic backgrounds, and minorities.

Proud of the relationship with the United States, Talabani says he ‘understands’ that some parties in Baghdad do not share this sentiment and ‘respects’ their position.