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Prime Minister Barzani's speech at AUIS Sulaimani Forum

Sulaimani, Kurdistan (KRG.org) – Text of the Speech of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani at the American University of Iraq's Sulaimani Forum:


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Distinguished guests good morning to you all and welcome.


I wish to welcome my esteemed brother Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, who has travelled from Turkey to Sulaimani to participate in this conference. On behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the province of Sulaimani we warmly welcome him, as this is his first visit to Sulaimani.  I welcome all guests who have come to attend.


I wish to thank the American University of Sulaimani, the University President Dr. Dawn Dekle, and of course AUI-S Chancellor, Dr. Barham Salih for extending this invitation to me to deliver the keynote address.


When I read the title of this conference, entitled Navigating the Challenges of the Middle East, I considered my remarks for this event. I thought that I would try to raise several issues and questions that might be addressed in the coming panel discussions.


“Navigating the Challenges of the Middle East”


This title leaves us much room for discussion around several issues, for indeed the Middle East needs to reevaluate its past and, going forward, turn to a brand new chapter in the ongoing story of its historical life.


The challenges require a very special understanding of the situation in order to modernize the political and social structure so as to guarantee and safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.


As the Kurdistan Region, still a part of Iraq, we are presented with two key questions:


Will that country of Iraq have a future as a stable, democratic and federal state?


Will the deterioration of this country’s security, economy and politics lead to the disintegration of this country that we have spent eleven years trying to rebuild and for which we have sacrificed?


We have seen dark times in Iraq before 2003, when we live under threat and were constantly terrorized. However, much of the progress in the recent past took place under the umbrella of American protection and with the assistance of American security forces.


Today, Iraq looks more and more like a failed state – large areas suffer from inadequate security, poor services, and lack of government facilities, deep and paralyzing political disputes exist among key groups, and there is a lack of national purpose in addressing future problems. As a result, the country is losing complete authority and has encouraged deep confrontation amongst the political forces. Unfortunately, the people are losing hope for a cohesive future due to the lack of strategic plans to resolve these issues.


Of course we Kurds have a special interest in this question for it will determine the future directions we shall take. As has been the case since the liberation of Iraq, we are committed to a democratic, federal, and pluralistic Iraqi state, which protects our rights and freedoms under a stable and meaningful constitution.


Since the beginning of the liberation of Iraq, we have publicly declared our position by words and actions. We are committed to a democratic, federal and pluralistic Iraq, in which constitutional rights and freedoms are protected. Commitment to the new Iraqi Constitution is a commitment to a peaceful political and social process, and recognition of the will of the people. We should not overlook the fact that over almost 4 in 5 Iraqi citizens voted and approved the Iraqi Constitution in 2005. The responsibility, therefore, is on all the political forces, neighbouring countries, as well as those who believe in democracy to support and uphold the Iraqi Constitution, and to ensure that this founding document is not used for political or individual gains.


I will not go into any great detail in this setting, at this moment, apart from saying that we are deeply concerned about the future of Iraq and about the nature of the relationship between Baghdad and our Region. We are partners in the new Iraq and in the Federal Government, but unfortunately we are pessimistic about the attitude of the Federal Government in Baghdad regarding the Constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region. Throughout the past decade, year by year our differences have grown and direct threats have only served to further push us apart and do not help to find concrete and suitable solutions in the Constitutional framework of our country.


Like all other sides, we are a part of this country. We have made a lot of sacrifices and will continue to do so to establish security in Iraq, promoting political reconciliation and economic development for the sake of stability. We will continue to seek solutions through dialogue and discussion.


We have a constitutional right to use the national resources of this Region, and we have made it clear that we will neither regress nor relinquish our rights. What we are after, then, is mutual understanding and to work jointly as stipulated by the Constitution, and not individual judgments or centralised rule – an era which has ended. This is the basis of our relationship with the government in Baghdad and with all stakeholders and parties in Iraq.


We will reiterate that the relationship between the Kurdistan Region and other sides must not come at the expense of either party, and it will not be part of the contention. However, we will work towards stability and mutual understanding, as well as for the protection of our people.


We are genuinely concerned that in Baghdad today the livelihood of the people of Kurdistan is being used as a pressure card against the residents of the Kurdistan Region. We are quite concerned that a single individual can decide to withhold the livelihoods of the people of Kurdistan as a pressure card against the people of the Kurdistan Region. This is not acceptable under any circumstances to the people of the Kurdistan Region.


What we feared would happen in Iraq has occurred: we feared that one day the will and actions of one individual will be geared against the Kurdistan Region and the its people’s livelihoods. Our public servants are part of the Iraqi public service corps. In accordance with the Iraqi Constitution and law, these public servants are entitled to their salaries. However, a single individual has decided that he has the right to withhold their salaries. This was our fear in Iraq, and now we have witnessed it. Therefore, the Kurdistan Region is determined to never go back to the past again.

After the liberation of Iraq many countries and outsiders attempted to implement their agenda in Iraq. However, we have genuinely worked to protect the dignity of this country. We want to have friendly ties with our neighbouring countries, but we will not be part of any conflicts and our ties will not be at the expense of others. We have our own agenda, which is to simply protect our interests and serve our people under the framework of a democratic and pluralistic Iraq.


In this context, we attach great importance to the creation of stability in the greater region. For that reason, we have worked with determination to establish better ties with neighbouring countries based on mutual understanding and mutual benefits, just as we conduct our ties with all other countries.


Based on this vision, the Kurdistan Regional Government welcomes the initial agreement of the P5 + 1 group with Iran. We believe this is an important factor for the safety and stability of the greater region. The Kurdistan Regional Government believes it is important that as a neighbour the Islamic Republic of Iran returns to the international community. As a neighbor we believe that this will be an importance factor ensuring the stability and development of the Middle East.


Furthermore, the development of our relationship with the Republic of Turkey is in the interest of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as this benefits stability and mutual understanding.


My second question is equally daunting: What are the consequences of long-term violence and instability in Syria, a conflict which shows no signs at all of ending any time soon?


The preceding, final decades of the 20th Century were extremely bleak with a pervasive sense of dejection felt among the people due in no small part to political challenges and military coup d’états, regional revolutions, the clash of ideologies and propaganda, empty symbolism, gestures and mottos and Cold Wars, which still exist in the Middle East. In the face of the current situation and the ideological confrontations that exist in the greater region, we are determined to work to protect ourselves and to protect the interests of the Kurdistan Region.


The civil war in Syria has overwhelmed all the neighboring countries with refugee flows that are not sustainable for any period of time.  The lack of an inclusive political solution to resolve this situation is a key factor behind the deteriorating confrontation and extremism, which has a negative impact not only on the greater region but also on the international community. This fragmentation of the Syrian opposition and the interference of world powers have damaged the situation.


In Lebanon, nearly one in four people is a Syrian refugee due to this unbearable situation. Jordan is cracking under the strain of tens of thousands of refugees. Even here in the Kurdistan Region we are struggling to maintain adequate conditions for over 250,000 refugees. The Kurdistan Regional Government will continue to assist the refugees and establish adequate living conditions.


Further, the violence has attracted hundreds – if not thousands – of Al Qaeda fighters back, and they are now infiltrating Iraq and capturing areas from which they were forced out by the American surge nearly seven years ago.


The peace process which has begun in Geneva is not enough. Those nations with influence in Syria must use their power to bring this humanitarian tragedy and security nightmare to an end before the entire region is dragged into chaos and crises.


Ladies and Gentlemen


Today in the Kurdistan Region, we are tasked with forming the new cabinet. We are in dialogue with all the political parties to exchange thoughts and ideas. We will work towards establishing a broad based government that is representative of the election results. This process needs time, but we have made progress. We want to ensure that the next four years deliver continued peace and stability in the Kurdistan Region, and that all sides are part of its development and governance. Furthermore, we want to work together to further develop the democratic process in the Region, and this encourages us to continue our dialogue with all other political parties to achieve an outcome that is in the interest of our people.


The society of the Kurdistan Region and the political leadership as a whole senses and strongly recognises the changes that are taking place in the greater region, and we continue to cautiously deal with these changes and future obstacles in a way that protects the interests of our people.


My third area of interest regards two of our strongest neighbors. Turkey and Iran are each playing a greater role in the future of the Middle East. Some see potential for cooperation between them, others see competition developing. This is aside from the impact of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East. My question is: What are the respective goals and interests of Turkey and Iran, and can they help to play a positive, tension-reducing role in the Middle East?


While many of us see this as an encouraging sign, there are concerns that this desire for greater influence could turn into a competitive, de-stabilizing process with each side seeking to add areas of economic and political influence at the expense of the other.


Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the role and impact of outsiders on ideological, religious and sectarian tensions.


And my last question as one of the people living in the Middle East is: What is the level of American influence? What is level of American interests in the Kurdistan Region, and what type of leadership and support can we expect from the United States?


We have gone from the hyper-interests of the Bush Administration, which sought to remake the Middle East in its own image, to the policies of the Obama Administration, which almost seem to reject the notion that the US has any strategic influence at all in the Middle East.


Will new oil and gas technologies, which are likely to make the US even less dependent on Middle Eastern energy, lead to an even more comprehensive US withdrawal from the Middle East?


What is the future US-European policy towards the Middle East? What is their impacts can we expect on this area?


Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues and friends,


These are just some of the issues that we as leaders in the Middle East need to consider and for which we must prepare.  There is no doubt that other issues will be raised and discussed here this week. I am sure this conference will be successful because a number of scholars, researchers, political analysts, government representatives, and journalists inside and outside Kurdistan are present.


I wish to thank the American University of Iraq in Sulaimani and the IRIS center for organizing this conference and for gathering all of us here for these roundtable discussions.


I wish you the best in your work and in your analysis, and I look forward to hearing more from IRIS about the conclusions.


Thank you very much.






President Barzani and Turkish FM Davutoglu Meet in Erbil

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (KRP.org) – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Erbil on Wednesday.

The two sides discussed bilateral relations, Iraq’s political and security challenges, including the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq, and the Syrian conflict.

They both said that they are very pleased with the status of their relations and expressed their willingness to further strengthen political, economic and cultural ties. Foreign Minister Davutoglu described President Barzani’s visit to Diyarbakir in 2013 as very significant and historical.

On the planned upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections, President emphasized that these elections must be held on time.




President Barzani Meets U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRP.org) – President Masoud Barzani met with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq Brett McGurk today to discuss the security and political developments in Iraq, tensions between Erbil and Baghdad, and the situation of Syrian refugees in Kurdistan.

Prime Minister Barzani opens the Grand Millennium Hotel in Slemani

Slemani, Kurdistan - (KRG.org) – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani spoke at the launch of the Grand Millennium Hotel in Slemani, lauding the business community of the city and urging further investment and private sector development.

The Prime Minister said, "This is another success story in the process of developing and rebuilding the Kurdistan Region, and the private sector has played a pivotal role in this regard from the beginning." He added, "The KRG has a clear vision for the tourism sector, and tourism can be an important aspect of our economy."

Mr. Faruk Mustafa, the owner of Faruk Company responsible for the project, explained the importance of this development for the city of Slemani. Mr. Mustafa referred to the importance of forward-looking KRG policy that has promoted private sector activity and supported businesses in various sectors.

The hotel is 39 stories tall and contains 253 guest rooms, shopping halls, ballrooms, two restaurants, and a cinema. The cost of the project was reported to cost just over a quarter-billion dollars.




Prime Minister Barzani welcomes Standard Chartered to Kurdistan

Erbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the British international bank Standard Chartered to Kurdistan today at the inauguration ceremony of its Erbil branch.


Mr. Barzani outlined the need for an improved banking sector in Kurdistan. He said, “I believe the time has come for us to seriously examine international financial practices and carefully consider how modern banking can help families and businesses to manage their wealth.” He added, “I have no doubt that the presence of Standard Chartered will help us move forward in this regard.”


Mr. V. Shankar, the Standard Chartered CEO for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, said the company comes “with glitter in our eyes” and stated his optimism for the bank’s activity in the Region.


Britain’s Consul General, Mr. Hugh Evans, underlined the United Kingdom’s confidence in its mutually beneficial relationship with the Kurdistan Region, applauding KRG policy and supporting the decision by Standard Chartered to commence operations in Kurdistan. Mr. Gavin Wishart, CEO of Standard Chartered in Iraq, also spoke on behalf of the bank.





KRG conducts first ministerial visit to Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal (KRG.org) – The Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, led the KRG's first ministerial delegation to Portugal, meeting with a number of key officials from the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Parliament and inaugurating the Business Association of Portugal - Kurdistan / Iraq. The KRG Representative to Spain, Mr. Daban Shadala, accompanied Minister Mustafa on the visit.

At the Foreign Ministry the KRG delegation was received by the Secretary of of State of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Luis Campos Ferreira, the Secretary of State of Portuguese Communities Abroad, Jose Cesario and the Director General for Foreign Policy, Rui Macieira. Mr. Ferreira welcomed the delegation and said, "We have a number of issues of common interest to discuss, so I am thankful for your visit to Portugal and to our Ministry." He added, "It is very important to have Portuguese companies working in Kurdistan, which is peaceful and welcoming."

Minister Mustafa expressed his pleasure in conducting the KRG's first high-level official visit to Portugal. He said, "We believe both Portugal and Kurdistan can benefit from a stronger relationship. The KRG would warmly welcome Portuguese diplomatic representation in Kurdistan, and we very much hope you consider this possibility in the near future." For his part, Mr. Ferreira urged the KRG to establish a representation office in Lisbon.

Mr. Sergio Sousa Pinto, Chairman of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, also received the delegation. Minister Mustafa emphasized the importance of international relations for the KRG, explaining, "We want to expand our relations with the international community, particularly in order to benefit from the technology and expertise of other countries. Based on this, we can build a mutually beneficial relationship."

Chairman Pinto welcomed the message, asking a number of questions regarding the progress and opportunities in Kurdistan. The KRG delegation urged the Portuguese Parliament to recognize the crimes committed against the Kurds by the former regime as genocide, and suggested a parliamentary fact-finding visit to Kurdistan to explore greater cooperation. Minister Mustafa also held a meeting with parliamentarians from several parties, promoting the establishment of an all-party parliamentary group to support Portugal's relationship with Kurdistan.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a signing ceremony to officially inaugurate the newly established Business Association of Portugal - Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Association is designed to enhance future cooperation, build commercial and economic bridges, and promote partnerships among private sector entities in Portugal and Kurdistan. The ceremony was attended by Minister Mustafa, Mr. Cesario, Mr. Shadala, and a representative from the Iraqi Embassy in Lisbon.








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