USIS Washington 

17 September 1998


(Kurdish parties agree on timetable for reconciliation) (550)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Diplomatic Correspondent

Washington -- Two important Kurdish parties of northern Iraq have
agreed to a specific timetable to reconcile their decades-old
differences with the goal of power sharing, revenue sharing, and
elections next summer.

Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and
Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP),
announced their agreement during a joint statement to the press at the
State Department September 17. Accompanying them was Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright.

Albright lauded the agreement as a "new and hopeful chapter" in
Kurdish relations. The meeting of the two Kurdish leaders in
Washington marked the first time in four years they have talked

The Secretary emphasized the "deep concern" the United States has for
Kurdish peoples and its interest in protecting them from any further
atrocities at the hands of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Both leaders emphasized that they are not separatists but dedicated to
representing Kurdish interests in a united Iraq. "We are not a
separatist force," Talabani said during his remarks to the press. "We
are looking forward to a united, democratic Iraq.

A senior State Department official who briefed reporters later that
afternoon declined to provide details of the timetable established in
the agreement. But the U.S. official, who did not wish to be
identified, said the two sides had agreed to specific steps to be
taken for revenue sharing under United Nation's Resolution 986,
approved in 1996. Known as the "food for oil" program, it allows Iraq
to sell its oil in exchange for food and other humanitarian supplies.
The Kurdish people receive a portion of the benefits of this program.

The two sides have also agreed to a power sharing agreement that will
culminate in elections next summer, the U.S. official told reporters.
Since Iraq has not conducted a census for years, the Kurdish groups
will need international help in establishing population counts as a
basis for their electorate, as well as help in conducting the
elections, the official said.

The U.S. official also emphasized that the United States and the
international community would not countenance any replication of
Saddam Hussein's 1988 and 1991 efforts to eradicate Kurdish

Both the PUK and the KDP have committed themselves to addressing
Turkey's concerns with its border security, the State Department
official said.

"They are strongly supportive of the security of the borders of the
countries in the area, especially Turkey," the official said. "And
they have agreed between themselves on a specific method to implement
that and a specific understanding between the two of them about
parties -- and especially one party -- that that is directed at."

The official was referring to the Kurdish Workers Party, known as the
PKK -- a militant organization seeking a separate Kurdish homeland on
Turkish soil. The group has been battling Ankara for more than a
decade and has been declared a terrorist organization by both the
United States and Turkey.

Talabani and Barzani have agreed to continue to meet under the
auspices of the United States, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. "This
is really, for them, a significant change in how they deal with each
other," the U.S. official said.