Iraqi ex-president, veteran Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani dies at 83
Former Iraqi president and leader of the country’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Jalal Talabani has died at the age of 83 in Germany, his party officials say.
“Our leader died in Germany,” an official with Talabani’s (PUK) said on Tuesday.
Talabani was transported to Germany along with his wife and two children after his health took a turn for the worse before the recent Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq, AFP cited a family member as saying.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif conveyed a message of condolence to the Iraqi nation over the passing of Talabani, praising him as “one of the most influential, prominent and benevolent figures in Iraq.”
“His absence is irreparable damage to the brotherly nations of Iran and Iraq,” Zarif said.
Talabani served as Iraq’s first president from 2005 to 2014 following the downfall of the country’s former dictator Saddam Hussain in 2003.
The avuncular politician was revered as a skilled negotiator who spent years resolving differences between Iraqi divided factions.
He was born in 1933 in the mountain village of Kalkan and studied law at Baghdad University. He later entered army for a temporary period before joining the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, father of current President of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani.
Talabani engaged in armed struggle in a first uprising against Saddam’s regime in 1961. He later joined a KDP splinter faction in 1964 following his disputes with Barzani over the later’s plans for peace with Saddam.
Eleven years later, Talabani established the PUK after Barzani’s forces were dismantled by Saddam Hussein’s army.
Talabani extensively restricted his political activities in 2008 due to his acute cardio-vascular problems which made him undergo surgeries and intensive medical care in the US and Germany for several years.
In July 2014 he returned to Iraq at the outset of Daesh Takfiri terrorists’ occupation of swathes of the country. The former president was later replaced by Fuad Masum following a parliamentary election.
Telabani’s death comes amid the ongoing disputes over the Kurdish independence vote in northern Iraq on September 25.
The Kurdistan Regional Government held the non-binding referendum on secession from Iraq in defiance of stiff opposition from the central government in Baghdad and much of the international community. Kurdish officials said over 90 percent of voters said ‘Yes’ to separation from Iraq.
Political observers have warned that Barzani’s referendum scenario is in line with Israel’s policy of dividing the regional Muslim states.
After the Monday referendum, the Iraqi government ordered the KRG to hand over its international airports in Erbil, and the city of Sulaymaniyah, as well as its border crossings.
It also asked the KRG to either cancel the result of the plebiscite or face potential sanctions, international isolation, and military intervention.
A ban on international flights into and out of the Iraqi Kurdish region also took effect on Friday.
The KRG has refused to either hand over the airports and land terminals or annul the outcome of the vote.