Iraq president set to return as tensions continue between Kurds, Baghdad
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is set to return to Baghdad after spending 18 months in Germany for medical treatment, according to Agence France Presse Friday.
"President Talabani is coming home Saturday July 19 after receiving successful health treatment in brotherly Germany," according to a statement released by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Friday.
"He is going to resume his duties as president of the Republic of Iraq," the PUK statement added.
The 80-year-old Talabani has served as the country's head of state since 2005 in what was designed to be "an unofficial power-sharing deal" that ensured a Kurd holds the post of president, according to the AFP report.
Tensions in recent weeks have been particularly rising between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), after Kurdish peshmerga forces took over disputed territories in the northern part of the country, including key oil fields in the city of Kirkuk.
Kurdish leadership has also called for a referendum for independence from Iraq.
Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al Malikihas been particularly critical of Kurdish actions in recent weeks, saying that to hold an independence referendum is unconstitutional under the country's law. The PM even accused Kurdish leadership in Erbil as providing a safe haven for jihadist militants to launch attacks on Iraq over the past month.
Talabani's son, Qubad Talabani, serves as the deputy prime minister of the KRG, and confirmed his father's return.
The president has had multiple health problems in recent years, suffering a major stroke in December 2012 that led to his treatment in Germany. His ability to rule and even to return to Iraq has since been in question.