Rudaw interviews Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region, speaks with Rudaw in Berlin on Tuesday.
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is in Europe with deputy PM Qubad Talabani and other government leaders to explain the stalemate between Erbil and Baghdad to world leaders. Rudaw correspondent Alla Shalli spoke with the prime minister in Berlin after their meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.
Barzani stressed the KRG’s commitment to negotiations with Baghdad within the framework of the constitution. He said the Kurdish emissaries are in Europe to ask those countries to be supportive in order to resolve problems. The PM said he is open to any country mediating between Erbil and Baghdad. Barzani emphasized that the threat of conflict between forces of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq remains.
The PM addressed the protests which broke out on Monday and Tuesday in several eastern cities of the Kurdistan Region. He called them ‘unfortunate’ while defending protesting and freedom of expression as a ‘natural right.’ But, he said, setting fire to headquarters, mayoral buildings, public and governmental offices that deliver services to people, isn’t helpful.
Rudaw: The reception by the German chancellor, foreign and defense ministers along with the country’s parliament shows that Germany pays great attention [to Erbil]. Will the opening of these doors in Europe lead to the redevelopment of the Kurdistan Region anytime soon?
PM Barzani: We have come to Germany upon a request from the German foreign minister who is also deputy prime minister of the country. We were in Paris two weeks ago upon invitation by the French president. These [visits] are important for the Kurdistan Region because of one reason: These visits are a kind of support to the demands that the Kurdistan Region is making within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.
During this visit, we held good meetings with Chancellor Merkel, the foreign minister, parliamentarians and the defense minister this evening. In these meetings, we stressed that the Kurdistan Region wants its problems with Baghdad to be resolved within the framework of the Iraqi constitution. And we have asked these European countries to be supportive in order to resolve our problems with Baghdad within the framework of the constitution.
The invitation itself and our visit here is surely a sign of support for the Kurdistan Region, its demands and solutions to the problems within the framework of the Iraqi constitution. This is how we see it.
You are calling for negotiations, but Abadi is not accepting to hold negotiations in practice. Is there any hope that Germany might create conditions for these talks to be held?
Any side that will be able to support us in order to start the talks, we will be happy with that. We will be happy to see Europe as a whole helping to create conditions for these talks to take place between us and Baghdad.
Our stance is clear as we have reiterated many times and reiterate again – the Kurdistan Region is committed to all the constitutional bases of Iraq and wants to resolve the issues within the context of it. It is important for all of us to call for stability in Iraq. And to reach it, dialogue is very, very important with Baghdad. We think that refusing to have dialogue on the part of any party cannot help us reach calm. On the contrary, in the end, only dialogue can resolve our issues, regardless of where we go and the time needed.
What was the difference between your meetings with French President Macron and German chancellor?
The meetings were actually the same. Germany and France were in contact with each other. Chancellor Merkel stressed that they want to jointly support talks and to resolve Erbil-Baghdad issues.
Can we say there is no longer a threat posed by the Hashd al-Shaabi and other Iraqi forces on the Kurdistan Region, following the visit by your delegation to France and Germany?
The danger still remains. Today as we are here – there are Iraqi military movements in areas around Makhmur. This threat is still serious. We hope there is no fighting. We hope that the problems can be resolved through dialogue. But the threat is still imminent.
You are aware of recent events in the Kurdistan Region. What is your message to the people of Kurdistan?
It is very unfortunate to see these recent developments in the province of Sulaimani. As a principle, [freedom of] expression is a natural right of the citizens of the Kurdistan Region. Protesting is also a right of the citizens of the Kurdistan Region. However, what we currently see has very unfortunately gone beyond this. Setting fire to headquarters, mayoral buildings, public and governmental offices that deliver services to people, isn’t help at all.
There is no doubt that the Kurdistan Region is passing through a very difficult stage. What is important at this difficult phase is for us all to pass this difficult stage together and united, and I think it will pass. But at these times, I think burning headquarters and creating problems in the Kurdistan Region serves [the interests] of no party.
Our message is very clear. I am calling on the security forces to protect people calmly and to not allow further escalations of the problems. We understand the situation is severe. But the manner used nowadays – the burning of headquarters and mayoral buildings – will in no way resolve the issues and make no changes to the reality.
What choices does the KRG have to make if Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi doesn’t respond to these initiatives?
The question is not about a choice or what choice we have. What we call for is the right of a nation and that nation will reach its rights. We shouldn’t speak to each other using this tone of language, in light of a strong versus weak party. We have to speak in a language to find the measures through which we reach a result.
This is what the Kurdistan Region wants. It wants to solve the problems. The Kurdistan Region does not aim to start talks on the basis of who is strong and who is weak with Baghdad. We think this is a serious matter that is related to stability in Iraq as a whole. That is why the only way to reach a solution is dialogue; sitting down at the negotiating table and reaching a solution that is in the interests of the Kurdistan Region and the entire Iraq as well.