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08BAGHDAD1073 2008-04-07 14:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

RRT ERBIL: SRSG PREVIEWS DISTRICT VISITS; KURDS

Tags:   PGOV PREL IZ 
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1. (C) Special Representative of the Secretary General
(SRSG) Staffan de Mistura briefed RRT that his upcoming
visits to Hamdaniya, Makhmour, and Akre districts will lay
the groundwork for recommendations to the Presidency Council
to begin resolving Article 140. He said his goal is for the
UN to facilitate a "grand political settlement" that
addresses the disputed territories and the deadlocked
national hydrocarbon legislation. De Mistura said avoiding a
referendum will reduce opportunities for violent political
contests in the "ticking time-bomb" that is Kirkuk. Initial
public reaction to KRG support for a political agreement
demonstrated the tight-rope Kurdish leadership will have to
walk to maintain public legitimacy if no referendum takes
place. End Summary.

SRSG launches district-level visits


--------------------------





2. (C) Special Representative to the Secretary General
Staffan de Mistura met April 5 with RRT U.S. Regional
Coordinator and RRTOffs to brief discussion points he would
make in his visits to districts identified as "easier,
mini-Kirkuks" to demonstrate progress on resolving boundary
disputes (Ref A). De Mistura said his April 6-8 visits to
Makhmour and Akre, which would likely be officially
transferred to the KRG, and Hamdaniya, which would likely
remain outside KRG control, were more about perception than
actual results. His meetings will provide an opportunity to
meet separately with the various stake-holders, he explained,
hear their concerns, and describe the UN's role in the
process. De Mistura said he viewed this trip as groundwork
to prepare for a political settlement for the three
districts, as well as Baladrooz/Mandali district in Diyala
Province; a first step in the process to eventually defuse
the "ticking time bomb" that is Kirkuk.



3. (C) De Mistura emphasized that he plans to remain open
and transparent with all parties throughout the process, and
safe-guard the perception that the UN is an honest broker.
He will present his recommendations to Iraq's Presidency
Council, but prefers to remain publicly quiet until then. He
said opportunities for political actors to draw conclusions
and then take up defenses must be reduced, so that the
Presidency Council has some latitude in negotiating a way
forward. De Mistura added that while he would have dinner
with Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) leadership April 5, he
would wait until further progress is made before addressing a
KNA session to seek Kurdish buy-in, as he so successfully did
in December, 2007 (Ref D).

Disputed territories, rather than Article 140


--------------------------





4. (C) De Mistura noted that although Article 140 is "not
dead," the term Article 140 is used only by the Kurds at this
point, as their claim to a constitutionally-mandated process
serves them well. He referred instead to his own mandate, as
outlined in UN Resolution 1770, to assist in resolving the
disputed territories. He said he preferred to avoid the
constitutional question regarding the continued validity of
the Article 140 Committee, given the unhelpful, politicized
discussions.

"Grand political settlement" instead of referendum?


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (C) De Mistura emphasized that his strategy is to
facilitate political agreement. He hopes an agreement on the
four districts may give a nudge also to the hydrocarbons law,
and lead eventually to a "grand political settlement" that
will resolve not only disputed territories, but also the
deadlock over oil revenue-sharing (Ref B). De Mistura said a
referendum would likely provoke violence, as stake-holders
would attempt to gain the advantage in the run-up to the
vote. He said June 30 remained an unrealistic deadline to
resolve the process, a fact Kurdish leadership understands,
but has not publicly abandoned.



6. (SBU) Attempts to publicly broach a non-referendum

BAGHDAD 00001073 002 OF 002


solution by the KRG have met with mixed results. Recently in
two interviews the KRG Director of Foreign Relations Falah
Mustafa Bakir brought up the KRG's support for a
non-referendum solution to Kirkuk: in Agence France Presse
(AFP) March 28, and with the local weekly Hawal April 1.
Falah said during the interview with AFP: "If there is any
other solution (than the referendum), the government of
Kurdistan is committed to be part of this solution" and "The
government of Kurdistan would be ready to accept a political
agreement that would satisfy all the parties." However,
KDP-financed weekly The Kurdish Globe reported April 3 that
Falah's comments were widely interpreted in Arab media as the
KRG's willingness to compromise on Kirkuk. Falah criticized
AFP for taking his comments out of context, and insisted that
the KRG would not accept compromises on the 140 process.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) De Mistura's visit will be welcomed by the KRG
leadership, as resolving Article 140 remains a top priority.
The Kurds are confident they stand to gain from a resolution
of the disputed territories, and success will beef up their
legitimacy with the Kurdish public. Privately some Kurds,
such as Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, are willing to
express flexibility on resolving Article 140, while others,
including President Masood Barzani and KNA Deputy Speaker
Kemal Kerkuki, express serious doubt about the UN's plans
(Ref C). Falah's remarks to AFP, repeating what we hear in
private, and his quick clarification in response to
accusations of Kurdish compromise, demonstrates the
tight-rope Kurdish leaders walk in persuading the public to
accept a negotiated settlement.

Comment Continued


--------------------------





8. (C) RRT monitoring of local press and discussions with
contacts indicates inflamed attitudes on the importance of
Article 140 are currently on the back-burner, and protests
would be highly unlikely in the near future. However, KRG
leadership dissatisfaction with progress could lead them to
organize large-scale demonstrations on short notice. RRTOff
discussions with Kurds, Yezidis, and Christians indicate a
referendum is the tool of choice to resolve the boundary
disputes, rather than political deals made by the KDP and
PUK. For many residents of KRG-controlled areas, only a
referendum will confer legitimacy in resolving the disputed
boundaries. When RRTOff mentioned this sentiment to de
Mistura, he appeared to remain convinced that a political
deal is the right way to go. If a political deal is the only
viable, non-violent option, public awareness campaigns and
other carrots to encourage communities to swallow what could
be a bitter pill will be important. End Comment.
BUTENIS