By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe
New UN Representative to Iraq faces daunting challenges, most of which were left unresolved by the previous UN Representative, Staffan de Mistura.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani assured Ad Melkert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), during a meeting that the Kurdish insistence on implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is the only and key solution for Kirkuk and disputed areas. Melkert ended his two-day visit to Kurdistan on Wednesday.
Melkert also met with other high-ranking Kurdish officials including Region Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki and Barham Salih, leader of the Kurdistani List in Parliament.
The UN's official website in Iraq described Melkert's meetings with Kurdish officials as "productive," but no further details were released. Local media reported that the UN delegation came to Kurdistan to closely watch the political process of the region and to observe UN humanitarian and economic aid.
Melkert acknowledged Kurdish leaders' will to cooperate in developing relations between Erbil and Baghdad.
"We want to advance cooperation with both the Iraq and Kurdistan Regional governments. We would like to listen to your [President Barzani>s] suggestions and guidance," the Kurdistan presidency's official website conveyed from Melkert.
The issue of Kirkuk and disputed areas was a focal point of discussion during the meetings.
The UN mission to Iraq mediated during the presence of former SRSG Staffan de Mistura in offering technical suggestions to help terminate long-lasting disputes between Iraqi Kurds and the Baghdad federal government on which side should have the direct right of places--including oil-rich Kirkuk city--that are claimed by Kurdish leaders as part of their autonomous region in the north of the country.
"We appreciate the role of the UN on this issue, and hope that the UN will work with all sides to find a resolution," President Barzani said.
UN involvement came as Baghdad halted fulfilling constitutional Article 140, which calls for returning displaced families home in the disputed areas, deporting brought-in people from those areas, and allowing the original people of those places to decide in a referendum whether to be governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government or directly by the federal government.
"We insist on the resolution of this issue in accordance with the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution, because we do not want to see our people go through hardships and tragedies again."
Barzani also assured of their readiness to cooperate with the UN, "but this issue concerns a whole nation and we will not make any concessions on this issue in any way whatsoever.
"I believe in this issue. I once defended this issue in battle and now I will defend it in peacetime," added the President, noting that the Kurds have showed enough "flexibility" on the issue of the disputed areas. He warned that further delays on this issue would only serve in complicating it.
"Evading the implementation of this article  will only complicate the issue further. If the UN is for an alternative to Article 140, then there will be no progress on this issue."
Meanwhile, during the meeting with the Kurdistan Region Parliament Speaker, the UN delegation heard a clear complaint from the Kurdish side regarding UN involvement in the Kirkuk issue.
"With our respect for De Mistura, he spent a lot of time but left no consequences," explained Parliament speaker Kirkuki.
He also assured that Kurdistan Region leaders highly regard fulfilling Article 140, and that this issue is to be settled via dialogue between the federal and regional governments of Baghdad and Erbil. "Also, opportunities must be allowed to components of Kirkuk and of other disputed areas so they can decide on the destiny of their origins through a referendum," Kirkuki added.
During the meeting, Kirkuki offered to the UN delegation historical and geographical documents to prove the Kurdistan identity of the disputed areas. These places were exposed to demographic changes in favor of increasing numbers of Arab inhabitants on the count of Kurds, according to a statement published from Kirkuki's office on Wednesday.