PARIS, France – Following a meeting between a Kurdish delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron has set the framework for a “national dialogue” between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments after the September Kurdish vote on independence. He said the dialogue, in light of the Iraqi constitution, must begin at the earliest time.
Macron said that France supports “the constitutional rights” of the KRG and the Kurdish nation.
The KRG leadership visited the Elysee palace on Saturday at the invitation of France.
President Macron said at a joint press conference with PM Barzani that the invitation shows that Paris “cares about the Kurdistan Region,” and the rights of the Kurdish people.
He said that he is going to make a phone call with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to push for dialogue.
President Macron said the Paris-supported dialogue must achieve five points:
“Respecting the [Iraqi] constitution in its entirety with all of its articles; Federal authority must be imposed at all border crossings [between Kurdistan Region and its neighbors]; All the militias of the Iraqi government must be disbanded, and that no militia must stay including the Hashd al-Shaabi; All revenues of Iraq must be shared equally between the nations of Iraq; Article 140 that concerns the disputed areas must be implemented.”
An English translation provided at the press conference said that PM Abadi “committed to” the fact that the militias must gradually be demilitarized, drop their arms and “return home.”
The points presented by the French president address key issues from the two sides. Iraq maintains that it must impose its federal authority over the international border crossings while the Kurdistan Region demands Iraq be committed to all the articles of Iraqi constitution “one by one,” especially Article 140 whose objective is to determine the fate of disputed areas such as the oil-rich Kirkuk.
PM Barzani said that they informed the French president that the KRG is committed to a united, federal Iraq that respects the Iraqi constitution, that they are ready to enter constructive dialogue with Baghdad to solve all their outstanding issues based on the constitution, and that they respect “the rulings” of the Iraqi Federal Court regarding the fate of the Kurdish vote.
French President Macron (R) gestures as he addresses a joint press conference with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (C) and Deputy PM Qubad Talabani (L) at the Elysee Palace following a meeting in Paris on December 2, 2017. Photo: AFP / POOL / Etienne Laurent
The Federal Court has issued three verdicts since the KRG decided to hold the vote on independence: It ruled to suspend the vote in September, then concluded that the Iraqi constitution does not allow the separation of any part of the country, followed by the final verdict on November 20 that cancelled the outcome of the vote.
Regarding the fate of the international entry points including the airports of Sulaimani and Erbil, PM Barzani said that the KRG does not have any problem for Iraq to impose its federal authority provided it is “per the Iraqi constitution.”
The KRG believes that the border crossings should be run by KRG authorities while being subject to Baghdad supervision.
The French President said that he wanted to invite and receive the KRG as a “legitimate government” to Paris, just like it he did when he hosted PM Abadi on October 5.
“I reaffirmed to the Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani the respect to all the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish nation within the framework of a united Iraq,” Macron said, according to the official Kurdish translation.
He said France supports the “territorial integrity” of Iraq within the framework of the Iraqi constitution, adding that Iraq must be pluralistic where the rights of all of its components are preserved.
A ceasefire has been protected between the Iraqi and Kurdish forces since late October, something President Macron welcomed. He said this must help the two sides to enter dialogue now.
“This constructive dialogue must begin at the earliest time so that the problems are resolved in light of a united Iraq that respects the Iraqi constitution,” Macron said as he added that the rights of the Kurdish people must be fulfilled.
He said France is ready to facilitate this dialogue whose steps will materialize in the coming weeks and months.
Asked whether the KRG is ready to declare the annulment of the Kurdish vote, PM Barzani said that the KRG has entered a new stage.
“That subject is over,” Barzani said about questions regarding the vote as he added that they have stated before that they respect the “rulings of the [Iraqi] Federal Court.”
He said that if Baghdad is willing to enter dialogue with Erbil on the basis of the Iraqi constitution, the KRG is ready, too.
President Macron said he is going to call PM Abadi over the phone to convey two messages: that the KRG leadership is ready to cooperate with Baghdad regarding the international border crossings, and that an “inclusive” Iraqi government must be formed that will be reflective of its components.
PM Barzani and Deputy Qubad Talabani attended the joint press conference where President Macron described them as the “young leadership,” of the Kurdistan Region. He added that he has “trust in” both of the leaders.
He concluded that he also believed the Iraqi PM is capable of holding dialogue with the KRG leadership.
President Macron welcomes PM Barzani at Elysee Palace
PARIS, France – A high-level Kurdish delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has met with the French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris Saturday afternoon following an official reception at the Elysee Palace.
A joint press conference is expected following the meeting. Deputy PM Qubad Talabani, among other officials, also attends the meeting.
It is part of international efforts to bring both Erbil and Baghdad to the table of negotiation following the Kurdish vote on independence in September and the Iraqi military incursion into the disputed or Kurdistani areas in October.
Iraq has so far refused to commit to unconditional negotiations with the KRG despite the fact Erbil has offered to freeze the results of the Kurdish vote, and has at least respected a ruling from the Iraqi Federal Court that concluded the Iraqi constitution does not allow session.
Ali Dolamari, KRG representative in Paris, told Rudaw that France as a permanent member of the UN Security Council “can play a positive role,” with regard to the talks between Erbil and Baghdad.
He praised the historical Franco-Kurdish relations that have continued to this day.
“This shows that every French president supports Kurdistan,” Dolamari said of the KRG visit to Paris, as he listed French presidents since late 1980s who supported Kurdish rights at various stages.
“France has always respected and supported the will of the Kurdish people,” Dolmari added.
The KRG leadership does not have any plans to visit any other country, Dolamari said when asked if the Kurdish leaders have plans to visit other countries.
France breaks ‘diplomatic embargo’ on Kurdistan–Rudaw’s Osamah Golpy
It is true that the Kurds appreciate and romanticize the Franco-Kurdish relations, but the perceived close ties between the two nations are as much about present as they are about a relationship that dates back to decades ago.
A Rudaw editor chose to say the French invitation to PM Barzani breaks an existing “diplomatic embargo” on the Kurdistan Region. It comes after the government of Iraq blocked a planned visit by the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel to Erbil, post Kirkuk crisis in October.
The Iraqi government has been successful to some extent to bring down the diplomatic traffic to the Kurdistan Region to the lowest level in a decade, pushing countries with interests in the Kurdistan Region to write letters delivered to KRG leaders by their Ambassadors in Iraq. France, just like the United Kingdom, has sent a letter to PM Barzani.
France, having invited Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Paris in October before the military incursion into the disputed areas, has now become the first country to go a step further than say Germany, and the UK by inviting the KRG leadership.
It does not matter what else was in that letter that President Macron sent to PM Barzani, but the way Kurds read it, it was an official invitation with a signal to break the “diplomatic embargo.”
Relations between France and the Kurdistan Region entered a new page under former French President Francois Hollande. He visited Erbil twice while in office and former president Masoud Barzani visited Paris four times.
France and the Kurdistan Region have a long history of close relations. Danielle Mitterrand, France’s First Lady in the 1980s and early 1990s, was a strong advocate of Kurds suffering under Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and was instrumental in campaigning for the no-fly zone that effectively allowed the Kurdistan Region to develop its current autonomy. She is affectionately known as the Mother of Kurds, and inaugurated the first Kurdish parliament in 1992.
It was also among the first countries to open a consulate in the Kurdish capital Erbil after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, and it was one of the first nations to come to the assistance of the Kurds when they found themselves at war with ISIS two years ago.