One of the participants in the negotiations said that a delegation representing the ruling Shiite coalition in Iraq may meet with politicians Cord next week to try again to persuade them to postpone the plan to hold a referendum on the independence of the Kurdish region or cancel.
Abdullah al-Zaidi, a member of the negotiating team for the National Alliance, the ruling Shi’ite Alliance in Iraq, told Reuters on Monday evening that a first round of talks held in Baghdad last week brought the positions of both sides closer.
The Kurdish delegation held separate meetings last week with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi and the National Alliance, as well as other political parties in Baghdad.
Kurdish official Mullah Bakhtiar told Reuters on Saturday it was possible to consider postponing the referendum on independence on September 25 in return for financial and political concessions from the central government in Baghdad. But the Iraqi government denied in a statement the authenticity of the information provided by Mullah Bakhtiar.
The United States and other Western governments fear the referendum could ignite a new conflict with Baghdad and perhaps with neighboring countries, distracting attention from the war on a wary organization in Iraq and Syria.
US Secretary of State Rex Tilerson formally asked the President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani two weeks ago to postpone the referendum.
Visiting US Defense Secretary Jim Matisse plans to again urge Barzani to cancel the referendum when the two meet on Tuesday in Erbil, a US official with Matisse told Reuters.
“They are looking for guarantees … the issue of guarantees has been left to the next round of negotiations,” Zaidi said.
Bakhtiar, official of the General Authority of the Political Bureau of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said the Kurds would not agree to postpone the referendum without specifying another date for him.
He added that Baghdad must commit at the political level to agree to settle the problem of disputed areas such as the oil-rich region of Kirkuk, where Arabs and Turkmen live.
He told Reuters in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah that Baghdad should show economic readiness to help the Kurds overcome the financial crisis and settle the debts owed by their government.
He estimated that the debt would range from 10 to 12 billion dollars, equivalent to the annual budget of the province for the contractors of public works and public servants and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who have not been paid full salaries for several months.
Baghdad stopped payments to the region from the Iraqi federal budget in 2014 after the Kurds began exporting oil independently of Baghdad through a pipeline to Turkey.
Kurds say they need extra revenue to cope with the rising costs of the war on the influx and influx of displaced people into the region in large numbers.
The state of Khilafah, announced by a militant organization, collapsed in July when US-backed Iraqi forces took Mosul back from militants after a nine-month military campaign involving Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
However, militants remain in control of land in western Iraq and eastern Syria. The United States has pledged to maintain its support for coalition forces in both countries until the organization is defeated.
The Kurds have sought to establish their independent state since the end of the First World War at least when the colonial powers divided the Middle East and left the region where the Kurds live divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Turkey, Iran and Syria oppose the establishment of independent Kurdistan. The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rejected the planned referendum as a “unilateral” and unconstitutional step.
The majority of Shiites live in southern Iraq, while Kurds and Sunni Arabs live north and live in the center of the country around the capital Baghdad, a mix of races and sects.
Officials say Cord said the referendum will also take place in disputed areas, including Kirkuk to determine whether they want to stay within Kurdistan.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been barred from taking over Kirkuk in northern Iraq in 2014 after the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of militant advance. The Peshmerga forces now run Kirkuk and both Turkmen and Arabs say they also have rights in the city.
Iraqi-backed Shi’ite Islamist groups have threatened to forcibly expel the Kurds from the area and three other disputed areas – Sinjar, Makhmur and Khanqin.