Kurdistan Region President meets with EU high delegation

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, September 7, 2021

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received Mr. Joseph Borrell, the Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, and his accompanying delegation, in Erbil on Tuesday.

Wide-ranging discussions focused on the situation in Iraq, the European Union’s (EU) relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, expanding partnership and cooperation, as well as the relations between Erbil and Baghdad and their pending disputes. Discussions also covered the dangers of terrorism and the threats posed by ISIS, the upcoming Iraqi elections and the anticipated political developments in the future, the status of the refugees and the displaced people, the impact of climate change, the latest developments in the wider region, as well as other topics of mutual interest.

Mr. Borrell expressed the appreciation of the European Union for the role of the Kurdistan Region in the fight against ISIS and its defeat and commended the Kurdistan Region hosting refugees and IDPs and protecting all communities in the country. Mr. Borrell reiterated the continuous support of the EU to the Kurdistan Region in all areas.

For his part, President Nechirvan Barzani appreciated the role of the European Union in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and valued EU’s support to the institutions and the reform processes in the Region, and also commended EU’s efforts to resolve the existing problems in Iraq.

The President reaffirmed that Iraq’s problems need political solutions based on the constitution and shared responsibility.

Following the meeting, a joint press conference was held. Below is a readout of the press conference:

President Nechirvan Barzani:

“I welcome the Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Mr. Borrell in Erbil.

“We highly appreciate this timely visit to the country that is a sign of EU’s commitment towards Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

“We had a wide-ranging discussion on EU-Iraq relations, Erbil-Baghdad ties and disputes, the war against terrorism, the threat of ISIS, the upcoming Iraqi elections and the importance of the participation of EU monitoring teams, the regional developments, migration and other issues of common interest.

“We thank the EU and its member states for their support in the fight against ISIS and for providing humanitarian aid. The EU, through its development programs, has also considerably contributed to capacity building in different sectors.

“Climate change is impacting the entire planet and we are of no exception. It is becoming increasingly clear that climate change is threatening Iraq’s security and development. I am proud that 3 of Kurdistan Region Governorates have become members of the European Covenant of Mayors, because they developed Energy and Climate Adaptation Plans with EU’s support. We encourage the EU to continue supporting Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, in our efforts to address the devastating impact of climate change.

“We seek EU’s support in providing capacity-building programs to strengthen our institutions, our reforms, the rule of law, good governance, and women and youth empowerment, maintaining academic collaboration, enhancing our administration procedures and developing our judiciary system.

“The Kurdistan Region also needs EU’s support to fully take part in all agreements between Iraq and the European Union.

“In the end, Mr Borrell, I would like to reiterate our commitment to promoting our shared values including democracy, freedom of expression, respect for human rights, peaceful co-existence and religious freedom and safeguarding all communities.

“Thank you!”

Mr. Joseph Borrell:

“Thank you President Barzani. My first words have to be to thank you President Barzani for the warm welcome here in Erbil. I am pleased to conclude my visit to Iraq at this region, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Because it would be impossible to visit Iraq without paying strong attention to the Kurdistan Region.

“We have had a very productive discussion about many issues of mutual interest that the president referred to them. We know that the region has had difficult times in the past and many challenges remain. I am here to express on behalf of the European Union our solidarity and support. The European Union is, and will be still more, a friend and a partner.

“In these difficult time the Kurdistan Region plays a crucial role in ensuring stability in Iraq and the wider region. We therefore attach high importance to the relationship between Erbil and federal authorities in Baghdad. We understand the difficulties and encourage all efforts to resolve the existing differences and ensure cooperation and we are ready also to try to help on that.

“In my discussions with the President I had the opportunity to acknowledge and commend the important contribution by the Kurdistan Regional Government to the efforts of the Global Coalition against Daesh (ISIS). The important contribution of the Kurdistan people have been decisive in the fight against Daesh. We the European Union remain firmly committed to this global coalition to continue working against Daesh. The fight against Daesh is unfortunately not finished given the repeated attacks in the recent times. In this context I am pleased to announce that this summer we have extended our advisory mission in Iraq by opening a permanent residence here in Erbil. Our team is ready to provide advice and expertise on civilian security sector to the Kurdistan Regional Government. It has started in the areas in which our support can be useful.

“I also commended the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the generosity and responsibility you have shown and given refuge to so many persons and internally displaced people by Daesh, among them many Christians and many Yezidis. The efforts, Mr. President, are impressive. You were able to receive in six months 2 million refugees, which represents one third of the population. I don’t think there is another example of such a big effort, receiving people and helping them. I know how much it can cost and I have to praise you and the Kurdistan society for this extreme effort of solidarity. We try to support you as much as we can. Since 2019 about 240 000 people in Iraq have benefitted from the European Union management service in the camps. And we also support projects aiming to improve relationships between IDPs and local communities.

“Plus we had opportunity to talk about the regional issues of mutual interest and concern. This region is located in a very complicated neighborhood. In that context I also bear in mind the recent developments, like Afghanistan, we discussed the migration file, very important for us and the members of the European Union. President Barzani, I enjoyed this fruitful exchange on human rights also. We agreed on the importance of the freedom of expression, the media as part of a healthy democratic discourse of a vibrant civil society of fair plays and fully in line with the domestic laws and the international standards. This is the cornstone of a society, free media, fair judicial system.

“This has been my messages during the lunch with President Barzani and the political leadership of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. From now on I forsee more constructive engagement. And I hope I will have the possibility of visiting your fantastic region again.”



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