TEHRAN – Describing the "Greater Kurdistan" idea as impossible, the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative in Tehran emphasizes that this idea is like a far-fetched dream.

"The map of "Greater Kurdistan" may be the desire of some Kurdish parties, but putting it into practice and unification of all Kurds is impossible and is more like a dream because the geography of Kurdistan is divided into four regional countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria,” Nazim Dabbagh tells the Tehran Times.

On Wednesday, the KRG had revealed samples of a proposed postage stamp to be printed on the occasion of the Pope's visit earlier this month. The stamp was said to have depicted a map that included provinces in Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

The stamp in question raised eyebrows in the region, causing tensions between the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government and a number of regional countries.

The stamp was published to commemorate the recent four-day papal visit to Iraq that included a foray into Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on the third day.
Following is the text of the interview with Nazim Dabbagh:

Q: What is the Kurdistan Regional Government's official position (KRG) regarding the controversial stamps issued on the occasion of Pope Francis's historic visit to Iraq?

A: Regarding the photos of the stamps that were circulated recently, the KRG spokesman and a number of other Kurdish officials explained that these stamps don't reflect the official stance of the KRG, not to mention that they are not applicable project.

Indeed, the stamp design was proposed by a number of Christian artists to the KRG Ministry of Communications; however, it did not meet endorsement by the KRG.

KRG spokesman Jotyar Adel told reporters that Iraq's Kurdish region adheres to the Iraqi constitution and geographical unity. Therefore, this is an arbitrary act by some who have no connection with the Kurdish officials and is not approved by the KRG, especially given the geographical and political conditions of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Q: What do you think of the main reasons and consequences of such an action?

A: We saw the consequences and reactions, both from the Turkish government and its parties as well as Iran.

The Turkish government condemned this action and the spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry expressed Tehran's position objecting to the Iraqi government.

Both countries (Iran and Turkey) expressed objection to the Iraqi government over the stamp, and these objections are reminiscent of what happened when the KRG held a referendum on seceding from Iraq.

The Turkish government and parties denounced this move, and spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, explained Tehran's stance regarding the controversial stamps.

On the one hand, I think that in the current situation, we should be more careful and just pursue the rights and aspirations of the Kurdish people within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.

On the one hand, we must admit that there is no chance to alleviate the problems without the approval and support of neighboring countries and cooperation with the Iraqi government.

On the other hand, the Iraqi government must abide by the constitution to satisfy the demands of Kurds, then the Kurdish people feel that they are partners in the Iraqi state.

Q: The alleged map of "Greater Kurdistan" includes parts of Iran, Turkey, and Syria. What will be the repercussions of such an idea on the KRG's ties with its neighbors, especially as this idea is facing serious opposition from the central Iraqi government? 

A: The map of "Greater Kurdistan" may be the desire of some Kurdish parties, but putting it into practice and unification of all Kurds is impossible and is more like a dream because the geography of Kurdistan is divided into four regional countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Each of these countries has its own distinct characteristics.

Today, we face delicate circumstances where we need to solve our problems and ensure the Kurds' rights and security within the framework of the constitution of the country in which they live. The Kurds are the partner of the Iraqi state and brothers of their Shia, Sunni and Arab fellows.

Q: Which sides would benefit from conflicts between the Kurdistan region and the regional states, especially the central Iraqi government?

A: Those who seek to destabilize the region are the most beneficiary side of these tensions.

 By magnifying the problems or tension between the Kurds with Iran and Turkey and even with Iraq's central government, these parties want to fish in troubled water.

Understanding the current situation, the Kurdish leaders and people must not allow enemies of security and stability in the region to take advantage of the differences and cause turmoil and concern about the Kurds. The Kurds are distributed in four countries of the region, so these countries' security and stability.

We should avoid any interference in the regional countries' internal affairs, as the territorial integrity and prosperity of these countries are important to the KRG.

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/459086/Greater-Kurdistan-an-impossible-dream-KRG-representative


 

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani Chairs Budget Bill Meeting

 Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani today chaired a special meeting with relevant ministers in preparation for the tabling of the Kurdistan Region’s 2021 budget bill.

The Prime Minister, joined by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, reviewed estimated expenditures and revenues from relevant ministries and headed a discussion on the current financial situation in the Kurdistan Region and ongoing preparations for the tabling of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s 2021 budget bill.

The budget bill will take into account the realities of the current state of affairs in the region and will be based on transparent data, oil and non-oil revenues, anticipated deficits, and net expenditures, aimed at strengthening the public finances of the Kurdistan Region.

The Prime Minister also received updates on the latest developments regarding the 2021 federal budget bill, which is scheduled for a vote next week by the Iraqi Council of Representatives.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Kurdistan Region remains committed to finding a peaceful and sustainable solution to outstanding issues between the regional and federal governments, including the Kurdistan Region’s financial entitlements as outlined in the Iraqi Constitution.

The Prime Minister expressed hope that Iraqi parties would welcome and support a call for Federal Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to take immediate measures toward a political resolution between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Federal Government of Iraq.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Statement by the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, on the conclusion of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, March 8, 2021

We greatly recognize the value of His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, who made the journey despite all the concerns. I thank His Holiness sincerely. We are proud and honored by His Holiness’ praise of the culture of co-existence and tolerance in Kurdistan.

I thank all religious and ethnic communities in Kurdistan who took part in the reception ceremony and hosting of His Holiness, particularly the Muslim religious leaders and representatives of all other religious groups in Kurdistan and Iraq. They demonstrated the richness of Kurdistan’s culture, which is rooted in tolerance, fraternity and mutual respect among all its communities.

The only path towards healing the wounds of war and violence in Iraq, as His Holiness rightly pointed out in the Holy Mass in Erbil, is “tolerance, forgiveness and kindness which God expects from all of us.” As His Holiness emphasized, “God wants the heart to be cleaned, it must be purified from the falsehoods that stain it, from the duplicity of hypocrisy” and “revenge, which plunges us into a spiral of endless retaliation.”

We in the Kurdistan Region fully support His Holiness’ message of peace, tolerance, coexistence, and mutual respect, away from hatred, extremism, terror and revenge. These values are the pillars of the Kurdistani society and we continue to preserve them. I hope that, in both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, we resolve the disagreements with the spirit and power of these values and messages of peace and tolerance.

I thank the cooperation between Iraq’s Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government and all the relevant authorities which arranged this historic visit, in terms of protocol, organization and security, with excellence.

Nechirvan Barzani

Kurdistan Region President

 

Statement by the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, on the conclusion of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region - Presidency of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (gov.krd)

 

 

 

 

His Holiness Pope Francis’ Apostolic Visit to the Kurdistan Region

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, March 7, 2021

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received His Holiness Pope Francis, the Head of the Catholic Church, at the Erbil International Airport on Sunday morning.

As His Holiness descended the stairs to the tarmac at Erbil International Airport, Pope Francis pointed to the ground and told President Nechirvan Barzani: “I am happy that we meet again, here.”

Later at a meeting, attended by Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, Mr. Masrour Barzani, Vice President Mr. Mustafa Said Qadir, Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Qubad Talabani and Kurdistan Parliament Secretary Ms. Mona Qahwachi, President Nechirvan Barzani welcomed His Holiness and said: “On behalf of all communities in the Kurdistan Region, I warmly welcome you, Your Holiness. Your Holiness’ visit is a great historic event and the people of Kurdistan are very pleased and honored by it.”

The President of the Kurdistan Region stated: “We fully believe in religious freedom and a multi-faith society. Tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect among communities are the pillars of Kurdistan’s identity and culture. We intend to preserve this culture. We are always for peace and dialogue. We reject terror and extremism. We will never allow any religious or ethnic community to be subjected to terrorism and extremism.”

The President also stated that: “Kurdistan’s communities have fought against dictatorship and terrorism and have made great sacrifices together. Together, we share our past. We work together towards a shared and better future. Diversity, religious and ethnic communities have empowered and enriched Kurdistan Region. We do not want Christians, Yezidis, or any other community to leave their country.”

President Nechirvan Barzani reiterated that: “The Christian community is an ancient and main community of Kurdistan, who have peacefully contributed to the foundation, development and preserving the country in great ways. We have spared no efforts to protect them.”

The President concluded that: “Your Holiness’ visit will bring prosperity. We ask for your support and prayers for Kurdistan and all its communities.”

His Holiness Pope Francis stated: “Thank you very much, for this warm reception. I have wanted to visit the Kurdistan Region for a long time. I am happy that I was able to visit at your invitation. I greatly appreciate that you hosted the Christian refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, Qaraqosh and other communities, although you were fighting a war at the time. You have embraced the Christians.”

His Holiness also stated: “I am here to pray for you, for the Christians, and for all of humanity, together with you. The enemy came to destroy this country, but you managed to serve the country genuinely, and hosted the refugees and other groups of people. War is destruction and annihilation. But you defeated the enemy and reconstructed your country. I have come to visit this land. You are pure in heart. You have been compassionate towards all. Pray for me too. Thank you for everything that you do for all the faiths and communities. Freedom is in place in Kurdistan. Thank you again for your warm reception and hospitality.”

 

Pope Francis's visit to the Kurdistan Region

 The Relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the Vatican

 

After the war for freedom in Iraq ended, a war which was a period of great terror and violence in the country’s history, the Kurdistan Region flourished as a peaceful and stable area where not only Iraqi Christians, but many others from all walks of life, came to for protection and acceptance. The first official and publicized meeting between senior Kurdistan Region officials and the Vatican was in 2005, when President Masoud Barzani visited the Vatican and was greeted by Pope John Paul II. On February 24, 2011, Pope Benedict welcomed President Masoud Barzani on another visit.

Pope Francis had his first meeting with President Masoud Barzani on March 13, 2013, and met a second time at the Vatican on May 30, 2014. The meeting coincided with the sudden influx of refugees to the Kurdistan Region, notably from the Nineveh province. Rather than focus on bilateral relations, Pope Francis and President Masoud Barzani took the opportunity to discuss the plight of Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees and jointly called for the world to help.

During that visit, thousands of Christians from the Nineveh province and other areas who had fallen under ISIS control were fleeing toward the Kurdistan Region. It was then that the relationship between the Vatican and the Kurdistan Region deepened, and officials from both sides began working closely together, culminating in a decision for Pope Francis to visit the Kurdistan Region.

On March 5, 2016, Vatican Ambassador to Iraq, Alberto Martin Ortega, thanked the people and the government of the Kurdistan Region for their hospitality in welcoming such a large number of refugees, who had to abandon their homes for safety.

At the time, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Pope Francis on March 2, 2015, to discuss steps the Kurdistan Regional Government was taking to ensure a peaceful life for refugees and IDPs. He spoke of the situation on the ground and how hundreds of thousands of innocent people were forced to leave their homes due to ISIS and threat of terrorism, and found refuge in the Kurdistan Region.

Former Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Pope Francis then met on January 12, 2018 in Vatican City, where they discussed ties between the Kurdistan Region and the Vatican, as well as the situation for Christians in Iraq.

In December 2018, Cardinal Petro Parolin, the Vatican’s Prime Minister, visited Erbil and met with senior officials in the Kurdistan Region. In an interview with Masrour Barzani on December 27, 2018, Parolin praised the role of the Kurdistan Region in providing for refugees to the greatest ability.

 

Pope Francis’ Visit to the Kurdistan Region

Current Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Masrour Barzani, met with the Vatican’s Council of Justice on February 19, 2020 and presented Pope Francis a painting depicting the ethnic, religious, and cultural fabric of coexistence in the Kurdistan Region.

The Prime Minister met with Cardinal Petro Parolin, as the Kurdistan Regional Government announced its commitment to religious coexistence and called for discussions between religious representatives to foster a greater culture of acceptance, reconciliation, and harmony between the people.

Cardinal Parolin also expressed the Vatican’s support for the Kurdistan Region. He praised the people of Kurdistan’s role in the fight against terrorism and in helping protect the achievements of the Kurdistan Region. He recognised the humanitarian role the Kurdistan Regional Government played, and how it continues to promote peaceful coexistence and welcome people of all different religions and cultures, setting an example for the respect of all peoples.

 

Welcoming Ceremony for the Pope

Pope Francis will travel to the Kurdistan Region on March 7, 2021, and will meet with senior officials in the Kurdistan Region as well as visit areas where residents found refuge from terrorism and sectarianism in Iraq.

  • The reception ceremony will be held at Erbil International Airport.
  • On the same day, Pope Francis will visit Mosul and Qaraqosh.
  • In the courtyard of Bay'aa in Mosul, Pope Francis will lead a prayer for the victims of war.
  • At the Great Church of Al-Tarah in Qaraqosh, Pope Francis will lead mass.
  • On the evening of the same day, Pope Francis will lead a prayer at the Franso Hariri stadium in Erbil.

 

Pluralism and Diversity Culture

The Kurdistan Region has been a beacon of pluralism and diversity in the region, and with the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government in 1992, those principles were adopted by the official institutions of the region.

The Kurdistan Region celebrates the diversity of its people, and has always welcomed those who have lost their homes due to violence, political and religious persecution, and were looking to start a new life somewhere safe.

“You are the representative of peace, forgiveness and coexistence, and the role you play in this field is our pride,” Pope Benedict had told President Masoud Barzani in 2011. It was the Kurdistan Region’s welcoming nature which led the Vatican to issue this statement.

Pope Francis, in an interview with the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on February 19, 2020, praised the role of the Kurdistan Region in confronting terrorism and in welcoming Christians, who have faced threats throughout Iraq and found safety in the Kurdistan Region.

The horrible attacks in June 2014 caused many Christians and Yezidis in Nineveh to flee to the Kurdistan Region, notably Erbil and Duhok. At that time, the Kurdistan Region was already hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria (Western Kurdistan). The Kurdistan Region continues to this day to serve and protect the hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs, regardless of their religious, national, and ethnic backgrounds.

The Kurdistan Region will continue to protect its land and its people, which includes Christians, Yezidis, and all minorities it has welcomed into its arms. On December 27, 2018, during his meeting with Cardinal Petro Barolin, Masrour Barzani recalled that when a group of ISIS members attacked the Kurdistan Region, and he had told his fellow Christians “We stand united, we have a common goal, so we live together and die together. The international community should protect Christians and allow them to stay on their own land, not force them to leave their homes to find safety.”

The people of Kurdistan have sacrificed a lot and understand the costs and efforts that come in the struggle to achieve peace and guarantee freedom for all those in the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Region continues to look toward leaders around the world, political and religious, for their support to celebrate and promote the Kurdistan Region’s culture of tolerance, and help the Kurdistan Region strengthen ties with the world, especially with the Vatican.

The Kurdistan Region will continue to protect its Christian minority, which hold five parliamentary seats in the region’s Parliament, whose children can study in their own language and are provided special accommodations at school, which holds special status within the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, and who contribute meaningfully to the political process, holding seats in the Presidencies, Parliament, and the Council of Ministers and helping shape the history of the Kurdistan Region.

 

The Role of the Peshmerga Forces

During the war against ISIS and amid violence in neighboring countries, the Kurdistan Region’s culture of coexistence and its hospitality became even more apparent as it welcomed nearly two million refugees and IDPs. The Kurdistan Region’s beauty and culture made headlines around the world and was the highlight during meetings with world leader. The Peshmerga Forces were recognised as heroes for their tireless work and sacrifice in protecting the peoples of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Kurdistan’s principles of peace and tolerance put the region on the map for the rest of the world to witness. The fearless struggle of the Peshmerga Forces to protect the innocent, no matter their religious or ethnic background, drew the support of leaders around the world, many of whom visited Erbil several times to show their support for the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga forces in person.

On March 5, 2016, Vatican Ambassador to Iraq, Alberto Martin Ortega, met with President Masoud Barzani and praised the heroic role of the Peshmerga forces in combatting ISIS. At the time, he expressed his support for the Peshmerga Forces to liberate areas that were still under terrorist occupation.

On November 10, 2019, Ambassador Ortega declared that the Peshmerga Force’s sacrifices was on behalf of all humanity and thanked the people and government of the Kurdistan Region for protecting refugees, IDPs, and minorities across the country during difficult times and keeping their doors open to the vulnerable and needy.

In recent years, the Peshmerga Forces have solidified their role as a shield that protects the people of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the world from terrorism and have become a symbol of resistance toward intolerance.

 

President Nechirvan Barzani received Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

 Erbil, Kurdistan Region, February 24, 2021

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Mr. Artak Apitonian, accompanied by Armenia’s Consul General in Erbil, Mr. Arshak Manoukian.

President Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the opening of Armenia’s Embassy in Baghdad and a Consulate General in Erbil. The President valued the opening of an Armenian cultural centre in Erbil Citadel and the efforts to launch direct flights from Baghdad and Erbil to Yerevan as positive steps to strengthen Iraq and the Kurdistan Region’s relations with the Republic of Armenia.

Discussions also focused on Mr. Apitonian’s recent diplomatic trip to Baghdad, Armenia’s bilateral relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and collaboration between the countries in areas of university studies, technology and agriculture.

Deputy Foreign Minister Apitonian expressed Armenia’s willingness to further strengthen ties with the Kurdistan Region in all areas and thanked the Kurdistan Region for safeguarding the rights of the Armenian community in the Region including their representation in Kurdistan Regional Parliament and the opening of the Armenian Church in Erbil.

 

Readout of PM Masrour Barzani’s call with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani spoke by phone today with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss the terror attack on Erbil last week.

During the call, the Prime Minister thanked Foreign Minister Le Drian for France’s prompt condemnation of the attack. He said that new information has been learned from the joint investigation with the federal government in Baghdad. Both agreed to stay in close contact in this regard.

On regional developments, Prime Minister Barzani and Foreign Minister Le Drian agreed that ISIS remains a serious threat to regional security and called for stronger cooperation between the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the Global Coalition.

They also reaffirmed the strong friendship between the peoples of the Kurdistan Region and France.

 

 

Readout of PM Masrour Barzani’s call with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian | Kurdistan Regional Government

 

 

 

 

Kurdistan Region President meets with the U.S. Ambassador

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, February 24, 2021

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received the United States’ Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Matthew Tueller in Erbil today.

Discussions focused on the latest security and political developments in Iraq, the recent attacks on Erbil, Balad and Baghdad, and the need for coordination among relevant authorities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to confront security threats, the importance of the continuing support from the international coalition to fight terrorism and preserve peace and stability.

Ambassador Tueller reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue Iraq-U.S. strategic dialogue as President Nechirvan Barzani described the strategic dialogue as an important framework for further strengthening of the U.S. relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. The President reiterated that the Kurdistan Region is willing to maintain a strong and active relation with the Federal Government of Iraq and expressed readiness to resolve the disputes in accordance with the spirit and letter of the country’s constitution.

Other topics of discussion included the developments in the Kurdistan Region and the importance of unity among parties, the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to secure vaccines, upcoming Iraq elections, the United Nations and the international communities’ election observation and support.

The agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Federal Government on the status of Shingal district, the status of the Nineveh Plains and other topics of mutual interest were highlighted.

 

 

 

 

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani meets with American Ambassador to Iraq

 Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani met with the United States Ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller, to discuss recent political and security developments in the region.

The Deputy Prime Minister provided an overview of the current progress in the negotiations between the regional and federal governments regarding the 2021 draft budget bill and the Kurdistan Region’s financial entitlements.

The two officials reaffirmed the need to maintain peace and security in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and condemned the recent rocket attack on the city of Erbil.

They also discussed the political situation and the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region. The Ambassador reiterated the United States’ continued support for the Kurdistan Region.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

UN Representative welcomes Kurdistan Region President’s greater role in Baghdad-Erbil negotiations

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region, February 14, 2021

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ms. Jeanine Hennis- Plasschaert.

Ms. Plasschaert reiterated that President Nechirvan Barzani can make important contributions to achieving a successful negotiation outcome between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraq’s Federal Government with regards to the pending issues, including the Kurdistan Region’s share of the Iraqi 2021 budget. The UNAMI Chief also welcomed the Kurdistan Region Presidency’s efforts to bring the parties in the Region closer together.

Other important topics discussed were: resolving the disputes between the KRG and the Federal Government in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Iraqi Constitution, the political and security developments in Iraq, COVID-19 pandemic, upcoming elections, the status of the refugees and the IDPs in the camps, the continuing threats of the terror resurgence and recent ISIS movements in the disputed territories.

 

 

 

 

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