President Nechirvan Barzani at Paris press conference: Iraq should not be drawn into regional conflicts

Paris, France, November 3, 2023

President Nechirvan Barzani held a press conference in Paris on Thursday following his meeting with French President Mr. Emmanuel Macron, in which they discussed a range of issues concerning the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the wider region.

The following is a readout of the President’s remarks:

“In our meeting with President Macron today, we covered a range of topics, including strengthening Iraq’s and Kurdistan Region’s relations with France. Given France’s strategic agreement with Iraq, we emphasized the importance of both sides adhering to this agreement as soon as possible. As you are aware, France has played a major role in supporting Iraq politically and militarily, particularly in the fight against ISIS. We also discussed the ongoing issues between Erbil and Baghdad and advocated for a resolution through dialogue and understanding. President Macron reaffirmed France’s commitment to supporting both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.”

President Nechirvan Barzani addressed the Erbil-Baghdad talks, the resolution of matters between the two parties, and the oil export in response to a question. “The problem at hand primarily lies between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, rather than France and Iraq. President Macron’s recent statements have focused on finding ways to assist both sides in resolving their disagreements. The oil issue was also discussed during the meeting, as Türkiye has expressed its willingness to facilitate oil exports. Currently, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation is engaged in intensive negotiations in Baghdad, aiming to find a resolution to these matters. The hope is to resume oil exports at the earliest opportunity.”

In answer to a question, the President commented on the possibility of further postponing the Kurdistan parliamentary elections: “In today’s meeting, we didn’t discuss this issue. As the Presidency and the President of the Kurdistan Region, we have fulfilled the responsibility of setting the election date and we are fully committed to it. It is crucial that everyone involved also upholds their commitment to holding the elections on time. The elections are of great concern and bear on the legitimacy of the Kurdistan Region. Neither are we in favor of postponement, nor have we made an agreement with any party, nor have we discussed postponing the elections. In light of this, we may schedule a meeting with the PUK this week to address these concerns as well as other matters pertaining to the Kurdistan Region. Our aim is to find a suitable solution to all the current problems.”

When questioned about the purpose of visiting the French Ministry of Defense and extending an invitation to President Macron to visit the Kurdistan Region, President Nechirvan Barzani responded, “Our plans included a meeting with the French Foreign Minister, but unfortunately, the Minister is currently out of the country. However, President Macron recommended that we speak with the Defense Minister regarding security matters in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, as the Defense Minister has previously visited the area. The third Baghdad Conference [for Cooperation and Partnership] has been delayed, and I extended an invitation to President Macron to visit the Kurdistan Region during his upcoming trip to Iraq which he gladly accepted.”

President Nechirvan Barzani addressed the concerns regarding Iraq and the surrounding region, as well as the resolution of the Kurdistan Region’s salary and budget matters, in response to a separate question. “During our conversation, we covered more than just Iraq. The events occurring in the surrounding region that could impact both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region were also a major topic. President Macron himself mentioned this before our meeting, and we delved into the details. As for salaries, it’s important to note that the Kurdistan Regional Government has been transparent and has provided all necessary data to Baghdad. There’s no reason for the Iraqi Government to withhold public employee salaries, as they are a part of Iraq. We expect this issue to be resolved quickly, as it shouldn’t be a long-term news item in the media. Our hope is that Baghdad will meet the agreements and expectations of the Kurdistan Region.”

Regarding the issue of oil exports, the President said, “The issue lies with Baghdad as Türkiye has expressed their readiness to receive it. However, there are still certain measures that need to be agreed with Baghdad, particularly regarding the contracts of oil extraction companies in the Kurdistan Region, which differ from those in Iraq. Iraq refers to these contracts as services, whereas ours are distinct. For instance, in the budget law, they have only allocated six dollars per barrel of Kurdistan oil, which is extremely low. This amount should be increased in line with what has been set for themselves, but not for the Kurdistan Region. Baghdad must address this matter. I cannot assert that the problem is political and that Baghdad will hinder the flow of oil. In my perspective, it is a technical issue that necessitates finding an appropriate solution between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad. Iraq has incurred a loss of approximately $5 billion in oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Region could have contributed to resolving this matter. The cessation of oil exports is not only detrimental to the Kurdistan Region, but also to the entirety of Iraq. We hope that Baghdad will view it similarly and find a suitable solution.”

The President addressed the issue of regional problems affecting the Kurdistan Region and emphasized the importance of the Kurdistan Region’s relationship with France in safeguarding against these problems and the threats they pose. “The issue at hand in the region is not limited to a single place; it has a widespread impact on the entire region. During our discussion with President Macron, we emphasized the urgency of delivering humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza. This is the initial step that needs to be taken. Additionally, it is crucial for those held by Hamas to be released. Our belief is that a two-state solution is the most appropriate resolution. Establishing two separate states in the region is a strategic approach that we firmly support as the only viable solution. It has become evident that military action will not resolve this long-standing problem. The issue has persisted in the region for years, highlighting the necessity of a political resolution. We propose the formation of two states as the solution. The Kurdistan Region is not under threat; however, the recent activities of armed forces in Iraq, such as the occasional deployment of armed drones to Erbil and Ain al-Assad, we firmly believe that these actions will not benefit the Kurdistan Region, and it is imperative to take all necessary measures to prevent Iraq from being drawn into any conflicts. The situation in Iraq is unique, and it is crucial for Iraq to distance itself from conflicts and actively pursue a peaceful resolution to this issue.”

President Nechirvan Barzani addressed Channel 8’s question regarding the potential threats posed by the Nujaba forces of the Hashd al-Shaabi popular mobilization forces towards Israel, the security agreement between Iraq and Iran concerning the opposition forces of Iranian Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Region’s involvement in that agreement. “Our stance remains unchanged. We are determined to prevent Iraq from being embroiled in these issues. Although we have not received any official statements from the Nujaba movement, we expect the prime minister, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to fulfill his role. Our objective is to assist the Iraqi prime minister in averting any potential problems for the country. As previously mentioned, a comprehensive solution must be sought in the short, medium, and long term. Immediately a ceasefire should be declared, and humanitarian aid must be promptly delivered to Gaza. The current situation in Gaza is not right, and we believe that, following the assistance provided, a peaceful resolution should be achieved in the long run.”
“Turning to Iran, it is important to note that there is a security agreement between Iraq and Iran, which also includes the Kurdistan Region. We are fully committed to this agreement and firmly believe that Iraq and the Kurdistan Region should not be a source of instability or create difficulties for our neighboring countries. The Kurdistan Region will not serve as a safe haven for any armed group seeking to cause trouble in neighboring nations and then seek refuge within our borders. Fortunately, the Kurdish opposition forces in Iran have a comprehensive understanding of the situation in the Kurdistan Region and have been immensely supportive in this regard. We are resolute in our commitment to the agreement, and it must be faithfully implemented as originally agreed upon.”

The President addressed the assurance of safeguarding the lives of civilian refugees in Iranian Kurdistan camps. “As I mentioned, those [opposition] forces understand the situation well and have been helpful. We are in constant contact with the United Nations and have asked them to ensure that the camps are protected. If the UN is involved, then of course the camps must remain civilian-only, in accordance with global camp principles. The civilians will then have the choice to either remain safely in Kurdistan or relocate elsewhere. The decision will be entirely theirs to make.”


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