Kurdistan Regional

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Netanyahu sought division of countries through Kurdistan vote: KRG rep.

TEHRAN - Nazim Dabbagh, the representative of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Tehran, said on Saturday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for the independence referendum in the KRG in order to achieve his own plots which is dividing up the regional countries.

“In fact, Netanyahu is seeking to escalate the situation and misuse it. In fact, he want to fish in troubled waters,” Dabbagh remarked.

Only Netanyahu backed independence referendum in the Iraqi Kurdistan which was ordered by KRG President Masoud Barzani.  The independence vote was held on September 25.

 “While some countries advised Mr. Barzani to not hold the referendum, there were also other states and persons who encourage referendum,” Dabbagh told the Mehr news agency while visiting the Tehran Press Exhibition.

“In my opinion some part of the blame is on Barzani’s aides,” Mr. Dabbagh noted.

When asked why Netanyahu supported the referendum and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, he said “Netanyahu, from the very beginning, before the referendum was held, announced that he supports the formation of an independent Kurdish state and then on the day of the referendum said that he holds no position about the poll.”

 ‘Israel wants to fish in troubled waters”

“Four days later,” he added, “Netanyahu stated that the issue of Iraqi Kurdistan is of no relevance to Israel, but after the statement of Ayatollah Sistani and the position of the Iraqi government about holding talks over the issue were announced, he again returned to the field asking different countries to put pressure on the Iraqi government and prevent the central government from pressing the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

He also envisioned a drastic change in the political map of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region in the upcoming election in view of the developments that followed the referendum.

Elections for the regional presidency and parliament, initially scheduled for November 1, have been delayed by eight months.

“Bearing the recent developments in mind, the probability of change in political map of the Kurdistan Regional Government is high.

“In the next election we will witness a significant slide in the votes for Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and maybe a new political movement gain the sway in the Iraqi Kurdistan.”

Dabbagh predicted that none of traditional partiers in Kurdistan would win the majority in the upcoming parliamentary election.

 

 

 

Kurdistan Region cognizant of neighbors’ security concerns

Exclusive – The Tehran Times recently sat for an interview with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative in Iran Nazim Dabbagh.

There, we asked Mr. Dabbagh about the current KRG push for a referendum as follows:

Q: Please speak about Jalal Talabani’s recent trip to Tehran and if it had anything to do with the referendum.

A: As you know, there are cordial relations between Mr. Talabani and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Due to his critical health condition, he wasn’t able to visit Iran over the past few years. That was why our friends in Tehran proposed him travel to Iran to get some rest in a special resort after his medical team gave the approval. He was in Iran for a few days and left on Thursday. 

He’s always been interested in optimal political ties between Iran and Iraq, and believes that Iranians and Kurds have had the same geography, race, and religion.

Q: Over the past months, a key issue has been the referendum decision. Why did you come up with that decision?

A: The referendum issue is in line with our Kurdish movement. It began decades ago and has been moving ahead all this time. Our strategies and procedures are time bound. Once it’s a sit-in, protest or fight. Today is the era of diplomatic, parliamentary and popular activities. In spite of a number of Kurds being in the top echelons of the government over the past years, no step has thus far been taken to implement bilateral agreements between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government. Nor have Kurds’ constitutional rights been upheld. On top of that, our budget has been cut as well.

As the war with Daesh (Islamic State) broke out, the Kurdish peshmerga was the star of the battlefield both in Syria’s Kobani and Iraq. The Kurdish forces had already been influential in the Fallujah and Al Anbar battlegrounds, and were crucial in keeping Baghdad and those areas under Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution safe and secure. (Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution calls for normalization of areas it refers to as disputed, to be followed by a referendum on whether or not those regions want to be part of the Kurdistan Region. According to the Constitution, the article should have been implemented by the end of 2007, and so far no referendum has been conducted on this issue.) This is while the Iraqi army stopped resisting Daesh fighters and fled the war zone. Had it not been for peshmerga forces, the Iraqi forces would have had to rush to retakeKirkuk after Mosul. Daesh even had plans to attack Erbil and maybe had eyes on Iranian borders.

The point is that throughout this period, the Iraqi government did nothing to help the peshmerga forces. Kurdish lawmakers voted for the formation of Hashd al-Sha'abi (Popular Mobilization Forces) just to regret doing so a while later because the peshmerga law that is part of the Iraq government was not approved by the parliament. The Iraqi government did not provide the Kurdish forces even with the basic tools. 

There are a few agreed-upon projects in the Iraqi parliament, including agreements on oil revenue, peshmerga forces and guidelines for relations between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government. Altogether, these are parts of the so-called Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.

Interjection: You mean failure to reach agreements on the afore-mentioned issues has brought you to the stage a referendum?

A: Well, these sticking points are not limited just to the ones I cited. As a matter of fact, now that the fight against Daesh has finished, we have our own dialogues. What if the Hashd al-Sha’abi takes power and certain Iraqi authorities decide to pursue the same Baathi policies towards Kurds? The question is how long the Kurds should wait to have their voice heard and their requests granted. That’s why the Kurdish leadership, coupled with the backing of five major groups and other non-major ones, insists on holding the referendum. There are of course differences over the timing of the referendum and optimal conditions for holding it. In fact, no Kurd dares to say he doesn’t want to get independent. The referendum process is a sort of parliamentary, democratic bid to get into the mind of the Kurdish people on the issue. Overall, the referendum decision seeks the attention of the Iraqi government and other actors that the Kurdish government wants in order to achieve its goals via diplomacy and dialogue. 

Of course, in response to the independence move, the Iraqi government may choose to fight us. I have overheard some Iraqi authorities saying “we will fight them (the Kurds). If you go down in history and review the Kurdish past before the Safavid and Ottoman dynasties as well as after the First World War, when […] Mustafa Barzani  [took part in leading] the Kurdish movement, you will notice that they all took to arms and sought independence. But the Kurds’ independence movement has been so far suppressed by internal and external factors. This is an indication that the Kurds have always been seeking to fight for their rights.

This time is no exception. We may enter into confrontation. There are two possibilities. Chances of victory and failure are equal. We can’t be indifferent to our people’s call. Otherwise, it will be treason. In a nutshell, what I am trying to say as the representative of the Kurdish Regional Government is that we believe we should implement the referendum through dialogue with Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq and other countries and have their approvals.

We don’t plan to declare independence right on the same day the Kurds vote for the move. Before any declaration movement, some steps need to be taken and we are well aware that Baghdad is the starting point for us to discuss the independence of the Kurdish Regional Government. To do so, we have already agreed on our own negotiation team and the first round of negotiations is likely to take place in the near future.  

A delegation led by Masoud Barzani headed to Brussels for the first time to enlist support for the referendum.

Q: You mentioned that the expectations of the Kurdistan Regional Government from Baghdad on bilateral agreement are yet to be met. And you already referred to some of these “sticking points”. Could you be more specific? 

The role of the Kurds in the new Iraqi government has been strongly highlighted by Ayatollah Sistani who once said Jalal Talabani is the key to the country’s security. Though Mam Jalal is recognized as a prominent political figure in the region who has served as president, we should bear in mind that he is a Kurd. Had it not been for the backing of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurds, it would’ve been impossible for him to play such major role.  
As per our disagreements with Baghdad, what I have said already are just the basic. Differences over oil purchase and sale, peshmerga forces, and Article 140 have to be ironed out. We reached a consensus on oil a few years ago after the invasion of the U.S. when the whole Iraqi political establishment and we cooperated in all stages of drafting the accord. 

The other areas of discord are, as I mentioned before, peshmerga forces and Article 140. The article was passed perhaps because it applies not only to Kurdistan, but to the entire country, Iraq. Major changes were made to Shiite-majority areas such as Najaf, Karbala, Basra, and Al Diwaniyah. Our Shiite friends backed the move in the parliament and approved it, because it was in their interest to do so. They, however, were reluctant to agree with a similar plan in Kurdish-majority areas. Since the passage of the plan in 2008 up to the present, it has been delayed. And these are issues that we disagree on. Unfortunately, the Baathi ideology still dominates parts of the Iraqi decision-making body. Such thinking only accepts itself to the exclusion of others no matter if they are Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds, and consequently that breeds disagreement. For instance, neither Ayad Allawi nor Ibrahim al-Jaafari did anything for the Kurds. We even asked for Jafari to step down simply after two years into a four-year tenure, because his polices fell short of being in compliance with the Iraqi Constitution and of being any good for the country’s unity. 

Again, Nuri al-Maliki completed what his predecessors, opposed to Kurds as he was. Maliki even failed to implement bilateral agreements he himself signed with Masoud Barzani, including 19 articles, and Jalal Talabani. Haider al-Abadi has also made no marked difference for the Kurds. Yet, during his tenure, Iraq’s situation changed as Daesh invaded the country. So, Abadi postponed addressing disagreements between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad until the defeat of Daesh. Finding a solution for the current situation has already been delayed for not being a top priority in an insecure Iraq after the collapse of Saddam or under other circumstances. And this shall continue in the future if left unaddressed. For this reason, the Kurds’ rights should be upheld. I have been with Jalal Talabani since 1964, and throughout it all, we have been seeking to live in harmony and peace one day. Well, the question is this: until when should the Kurds live so? We continue our bid. We may win, we may lose. But God willing, we will make it. Yet, we are fully aware of the geographical position of the Kurdistan Region and we know that any independent Kurdish establishment in Iraq needs to be mindful of the security of its neighboring countries; and

Iraq, of course, is the first country we need to reach a consensus with.

Q: As you argued earlier, different Kurdish groups and parties unanimously agree on the referendum decision. However, there are counterarguments. Change Movement (Goran) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) have voiced opposition. Also, people familiar with the issue have linked the removal of Ala Talabani as the head of the PUK’s party faction in the Iraqi parliament to her disagreement with the referendum bid. What is your reaction?

A: This is all media hype. First of all, I should say that there is unanimous agreement within the entire political authority of the Kurdistan Regional Government about the referendum decision. The Change Movement and Kurdistan Islamic Group also fully endorse the move but have reservations in terms of the preconditions for holding the referendum. They demand current issues and challenges of the Kurdistan Regional Government be resolved. Also, they argue that the referendum decision should be approved by the parliament not by the government’s leadership. So, they differ on that.

As per Ala Talabani, her removal has nothing to do with the referendum; it is due to some internal issues of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan itself. The removal decision was made by the political bureau of the PUK and has not been applied yet.

Q: Iraq and Turkey have threatened they would resort to force if the Kurdistan Regional Government insists on holding the referendum. What’s your reaction?

A: We have imagined all possibilities. The Kurdish leadership is already battle-hardened. While threats by Iraq and Turkey or any other country can’t be ignored, we have witnessed the worst scenarios over our history. Turkey, for instance, has launched more than 27 strikes against the PKK and Kurds so far.
I need to clarify that wars are not conducive to solutions. Once there were only 3,000 peshmergas. What was the outcome? Saddam Hossein once said two people wouldn’t be allowed to have a sip of water across the Iraqi territory. Due to resistance, one of the two became president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the other president of Iraq. So, disagreements should not escalate into military confrontation because experience indicates that we are resistant and adamant.

Q: How far do you think it is legitimate for countries with Kurdish communities to voice concern over the referendum decision? 

A: I think it’s their legitimate right to be worried about the referendum move. But, the question arising here is what the root cause of such concerns are. The Kurds are worried about their future, and this should be resolved. 

Interjection: But do you acknowledge that the referendum may set a precedent in the region for other Kurdish communities in neighboring countries? 

A: Yes, this may be the case. But we’re not to blame for that, and it depends on the governments of those countries. Do the Kurds who are fighting Turkey have a government? A second point to bear in mind is that Iraqi Kurds have no right to intervene in other countries. 

Q: What do you say when Iran says it is against the referendum bid in the Kurdistan Region? 

A: Unlike other countries such as Turkey, whose president has threateningly said that the Kurds would regret holding referendum, Iran has merely opposition to the decision while supporting the Kurds in a unified Iraq and urging a return to the Iraqi Constitution. That’s exactly our demand, as well. We want Article 140 of the Constitution to be reactivated and implemented. 

I should reiterate that it’s our neighboring countries’ legitimate right to be worried. But an appropriate solution has to be wrought. We have always highlighted the importance of respecting the security of regional countries, and we need to assure them we are not posing any threats to them. As a matter of fact, we have no other choice but to pursue such policy because we are a landlocked territory, meaning that we commit suicide if we choose to have strained relations with neighboring countries. Just now, trade flow from Iran to the Kurdistan Region is nearly $4 billion, without which it would be difficult for us to continue normal life. So, we’re well aware that if Iran, Turkey, Iraq, or Syria wish, they can suffocate us. 

Q: How do you see the future of the referendum? And what is the way forward? 

A: I’m optimistic, and do believe that any nation or ethnicity who insist on defending thir rights would prevail finally. The referendum shouldn’t be taken to mean declaration of independence. The move is a sort of popular authority bestowed on the Kurdish leadership; that the referendum bid is backed not only by the Kurdish authorities but also the Kurdish people. And when you have such backing, the people are ready to defend and preserve what they have voted for. 

SP/AK

 

http://www.tehrantimes.com/news/415214/Kurdistan-Region-cognizant-of-neighbors-security-concerns

Jalal Talabani’s visit to Iran is not political, Nazim Dabagh tells Kurdpress

 The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Representative to Tehran, Nazim Dabbagh, told Kurdpress that the visit of Jalal Talabani, the Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and former Iraqi President, is not political and blamed those who call the trip political.  

Talabani suffered a heart stroke in 2014 and has been practically out of the politics since then.

He told Kurdpress that since Talabani’s stroke Iranian officials have repeatedly demanded for his travel to Iran for treatment and rest and Talabani himself was very eager to visit the placed he had visited in Iran before and preparation was made for the visit about a month ago so as he could visit Iran for some time.

The representative added that he has accompanied Talabani is most of the meetings Talabani has made and he is very pleased with the situation.

Dabagh added that the Iranian Minister of Health Seyyed Hassan Hashemi met Talabani and stated that the secretary’s general’s health is improving. Hashemi also expressed his hope that Mam Jalal (the way Kurds call Jalal Talabani) would fully regain his health as he has played a significant role in stabilizing the region and the good ties between Iraq and Iran.

 

Link: 

http://www.kurdpress.com/En/NSite/FullStory/News/?Id=16460#Title=Jalal Talabani’s visit to Iran is not political, Nazim Dabagh tells Kurdpress

 

 

 

Kurdistan Regional Government condemns Brussels' attacks

Text of Statement by KRG Council of Ministers:

We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Brussels yesterday. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, and wish the injured complete recovery.

Here in Iraqi Kurdistan, we directly face ISIS terrorism.  We understand well the pain of the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people and Government of Belgium.

Such heinous crimes against innocent people demonstrate once again that terrorism can strike anywhere at anytime without warning. No people or place is invulnerable.

This is a message for all humanity, to the international community and the centers of power and decision-making, that we should not, and cannot, halt the pursuit and intensification of our efforts to combat terrorism.

Once again, we express our solidarity and sympathy with the Belgian people.

Council of Ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government
23 March 2016

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Barzani meets Lebanese Minister of Tourism

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (cabinet.gov.krd) - Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani yesterday received Lebanese Minister of Tourism  Michel Pharaon and his accompanying delegation.

The delegation visited the Kurdistan Region to attend the International Tourism Conference held last weekend in Erbil.

Referring to the tourism potential of the Kurdistan Region, Minister Pharaon explained the Lebanese tourism sector and noted those areas where Lebanon could help the Kurdistan Region with expertise.

Prime Minister Barzani expressed hope that Lebanon’s long and successful experience, as well as expertise, will help the Kurdistan Region’s tourism sector.

Mr. Pharaon expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the Kurdistan Regional Government for welcoming the Lebanese community. 

The two sides also discussed the war against ISIS and its impact throughout the Region.

 

Nechirvan Barzani : Kurdistan Region has a strong potential for tourism development

The  text of the  speech of Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region in the opening ceremony of the International Tourism Conference in Erbil:


Ladies and gentlemen,
Dears Minister of Tourism of the Lebanese Republic and Minister of Culture of the Republic of Iraq,
Representatives of International, regional, and Iraqi tourism agencies and companies,

I welcome you all to this event; it’s our pleasure to host you today in the capital of the Kurdistan Region in an international conference of tourism. Participation of officials and representatives of 27 tourism companies across the world, especially at this particular time of The war against terrorism, and financial challenges, is not only a prestigious event for our tourism sector but also a show of solidarity and support and a repose for the Kurdistan Region.

 

 

I hope the presence of such a large number of international tourism companies in this conference will help us to revive tourism sector in Kurdistan Region in a way that it becomes another source of revenue for the region, a bridge with the world to open other doors, a tourist destination for international tourists visiting the Middle East.

With its natural beauty, breathtaking scenery, undiscovered mountains, ancient and historical sites, the Kurdistan Region has a great potential to become a major tourism destination in the wider region.

The welcoming attitude and warm hospitality of the people of Kurdistan Region is another important factor that could help develop tourism sector in our region. This welcoming attitude, which is one of the characteristics of the people of Kurdistan, gives a positive first impression to all foreign tourists at airports or border points upon their entry to our region. Hope to stay like that steadily.   

Dear guests,
The Kurdistan Regional Government has done its best to build tourism infrastructure, to secure the safety of tourists, and to attract international tourists to the Kurdistan Region. In order to further develop our tourism sector, the KRG has encouraged the private sector to invest in tourism projects and we will continue to do so. Since the establishment of the KRG Board of Investment in 2007, more than 6 billion USD have been invested in the tourism sector.

Despite of having the basic elements of a  tourism, it is unfortunate that due to our limited resources we have to give priority to the sectors that have direct impacts on the lives of our citizens. As a result, we have not been able to support tourism sector to the extent that we had planned. On the other hand, freezing of the KRG’s share of the federal budget ,the financial crises and war against terror challenges facing our region have had an adverse impact on all sectors including the tourism sector during the last two years. We are confident that once we overcome the current challenges, tourism sector will revive again and we will be able to further promote tourism in the Kurdistan Region.

When we look at the statistics between   2007 to 2016, we see great progress in our tourism sector. For instance, in 2007 we only had 105 hotels, while the number in 2016 has risen to 620 hotels. The number of restaurants for the same given years has increased from 129 to 764. Also during those years the number of tourists entering the Kurdistan Region increased from 377,000 to nearly three million. Most of the tourists come from the middle and south of Iraq, Iran and to a lesser extent from the regional and international countries.

The KRG has a comprehensive plan for the development of tourism sector. Our strategy is to focus on developing the sectors of agriculture, industry, and tourism to become the main source of our economy instead of oil and natural gas, with  the establishment of a solid infrastructure for those sectors , we would be able to reduce our dependency on the oil and gas sector.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Achieving a world-class tourism sector does not only require building five star hotels, restaurants and tourism projects but also a culture of tourism and exceptional services. In that regard, Kurdistan Region has a great potential as the people of the region enjoy tourism, which will make our job of promoting culture of tourism and attracting international tourists much easier, the social environment of Kurdistan Region for tourism and hosting foreign tourists is helpful and promising .

Even though, a much mature tourism culture is required ,the KRG and its relevant institutions should work seriously, in a scientific way, to further promote and consolidate culture of tourism in the Kurdistan Region. The local media can also play an active role in that regard. I hope that this subject will be discussed during the discussion of this conference to explore ways and means of advancing culture of tourism in our region.

I would like to seize this opportunity to encourage local and foreign investors to play an active role in reviving our tourism sector through investing in tourism projects. I urge them to take advantage of Kurdistan’s undiscovered mountains, plains, and rivers to build appropriate tourism project on this four season suitable land for tourism. The KRG is ready to fully support and facilitate the implementation of such kind of projects.

Tourism is an important sector for Kurdistan Region. I have instructed the KRG Ministry of Municipality, Board of Tourism and other relevant authorities to undertake necessary measures to further promote tourism so that it becomes a source of revenue for our region.

Dear guests,

Please allow me to salute the martyrs of Kurdistan who sacrificed their lives defending our land and freedom. I commend our brave peshmerga forces who are in the frontlines fighting the most brutal terrorist organization so that we can live in peace and continue building our nation. The resilience of our Peshmerga forces makes it possible for the people of Kurdistan Region to celebrate Newruz like every other year.

Once again I would like to welcome you all. I wish the conference success. I thank the Ministry of Municipality and Board of Tourism for organizing this important gathering. I wish the participants a productive conference and I hope their presence here today will pave the way for further collaboration in the future so that we will continue to work together to turn Kurdistan into a major tourist destination.

Thank you all

 

 

 

 

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