KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani holds a press conference, July 4, 2018. Photo: Hemin Ranyai
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has blamed the PKK’s “occupation” of large parts of Kurdistan for provoking Turkish attacks and incursions, which have caused civilian casualties.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Barzani said his government is against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) using Kurdistan Region territory to attack neighboring countries.
“Why are these operations conducted in the Kurdistan Region? They are conducted in the Kurdistan Region because PKK has occupied large parts of Kurdistan and used them to attack Turkey and then return,” he said.
Turkish forces have recently expanded operations against the PKK, targeting the group’s headquarters in the Qandil Mountains. Ankara considers the PKK a terrorist organization.
“What is happening is PKK’s fault,” Barzani added.
The prime minister held a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday congratulating him on his June 24 election victory.
“We both reiterated that the relations between Ankara and the Kurdistan Region need to be developed more,” Barzani told the press conference.
The PM hopes to visit Turkey in the near future to develop ties further.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Barzani also issued his government’s stance on Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary election and the ongoing manual recount of votes.
He said he had always supported the manual recount of votes to address the allegations of fraud raised by the Kurdistani parties – the important step now is to achieve Kurdish unity in Baghdad.
“We believe that in Baghdad it is necessary for all of us to unitedly participate to defend the rights of the Kurdistan Region,” he said.
“We don’t want to rush the topic of alliances before the process is complete,” Barzani added, arguing the results are yet to be approved and the recount is a lengthy process.
The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is planning to meet with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to discuss an alliance, which other Kurdish parties are invited to join, he said.
Kurdistan regional elections
Turning to the Region’s own forthcoming parliamentary elections, due to be held on September 30, Barzani said: “We insist on elections in the Kurdistan Region taking place on their designated times.”
“Officially no party has asked us [to postpone the parliamentary elections],” he added, responding to several public calls to delay them until the manual recount is complete.
The KRG has said it will only hold parliamentary elections – putting off provincial and presidential elections to a later date.
“We have spoken of provincial council elections. We are waiting for the answer of the parties. The KDP is ready for these elections. Our aim is for it to be held on time. We will wait to see the stance of the parties on this matter,” said Barzani.
Relations between Erbil and Baghdad have been slowly improving since the federal government imposed a series of measures to diminish the KRG following last year’s referendum on Kurdish independence.
Among those measures was the withdrawal of Peshmerga forces from the disputed territories, including parts of Kirkuk, Saladin, and Diyala. These areas have since seen a resurgence in ISIS activity, leading some commanders and communities to call for the return of Peshmerga forces.
“Relations between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region could be described as good,” said Barzani.
“The Kurdistan Region observes the new situation where Daesh [ISIS] has started military activities with concern. The Kurdistan Region has total readiness to cooperate with Baghdad to provide security and safety in these areas.”
“We frankly have a joint enemy. The joint enemy is Daesh. It is a danger to Baghdad, to Erbil, Najaf, to Mosul and to everywhere. We as the Kurdistan Region have expressed many times and repeat that we are ready to help Baghdad with providing security,” he added.
“There have been no official meetings with Baghdad over the return of Peshmerga. If they ask us for ensuring security in these areas, we will do it, but there has been no request.”
One area where cooperation appears to be making less progress is oil.
Barzani said his government told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the Kurdistan Region can help export Kirkuk’s oil through its pipeline. Baghdad has not responded.
“I still don’t understand why Baghdad doesn’t hurry up in this matter. Even if it is the Kurdistan Region’s pipeline it is still Iraq’s,” Barzani said.
The Council of Ministers recently received Deloitte’s latest auditing report on the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports, covering the second half of 2017 and three months of 2018. The data and numbers will be published in the coming days.
“The people of Kurdistan have the right to know how this process [selling oil] is handled,” Barzani said.
Last updated 4.10 P.M.