ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani described relations with Iran as generally good, adding they are glad a flight resumption between the Kurdistan Region and Tehran is in the works. The PM also welcomed steps that would see regional countries not use chemical weapons.
“We are happy with the restart of flights between Tehran, Erbil and Sulaimani. This is a very good thing. We are happy with this step. Relations between us and Tehran are good. Generally our relations with neighboring countries are good. We are happy with this,” Nechirvan Barzani, KRG’s prime minister, told journalists in a press conference on Tuesday.
The response was to a question asking if non-stop flights would resume between the Kurdistan Region and Tehran.
Iran was the first country to take measures against KRG following the independence referendum. It closed its border crossings with the KRG, and like Turkey, it complied with Baghdad’s international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region.
While Turkey has removed its ban on the Erbil airport, it has not with Sulaimani, accusing the city’s authorities of abetting and helping the PKK.
“Concerning the return of flights to Sulaimani, yes, there are talks between us and Ankara. We will resolve this matter,” Barzani revealed.
The PM noted that the KRG’s Minister of Planning Ali Sindi was invited to Istanbul by the Turkish economic ministry and they met with
Turkey’s president on Monday on the sidelines of an entrepreneurship conference.
“We certainly expect other steps for the relations between Erbil and Ankara to be normalized… Turkey is an important country for us,” Barzani said.
The PM also said he welcomes any steps by the international community to put an end to the use of chemical weapons in the region.
On April 14, the United States, United Kingdom and France targeted facilities in Syria with a barrage of rockets in response to an alleged usage of chemical weapons in the town of Douma.
“Any step that would become a factor for countries not to use chemical weapons, we as the Kurdistan Regional Government support it. We are hoping a limit will be set against the usage of chemical weapons in the region,” said Barzani, arguing that the people of the Kurdistan Region are the biggest victims of chemical weapons usage.
Notably in 1988, the previous Iraqi Baathist regime dropped chemical weapons on the Kurdish city of Halabja, killing 5,000 and injuring 10,000 more men, women, and children.
The PM also touched on a number of other Iraqi topics, such as elections, relations between Baghdad and Erbil, among other things.
“We hope that a successful election will be held for all of Iraq removed from violence,” Barzani hoped.
Incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr or Victory Coalition and other Iraqi Arab parties have opened offices in the Kurdistan Region and have fielded candidates.
The PM argues that it is normal for Iraqi parties to have lists in the Kurdistan Region and for KRG parties to have lists in Iraq. He said that Arab parties competing for Kurdish votes is not concerning. He, however, lamented the impediments for his party, the KDP, in Kirkuk and disputed territories.
“… Unfortunately KDP has not been given the same opportunity to either campaign or to have offices. Unfortunately one of the reasons that led KDP to boycott elections in Kirkuk was for security reasons,” said Barzani, pointing out that other parties have offices in Kirkuk and elsewhere.
While he considered the movement of delegations between Erbil and Baghdad normal for resolving issues, he denied that a KRG delegation is set to visit Baghdad soon.
“I have only heard it from the media that a delegation will go to Baghdad. Frankly, there has been nothing official between us and Baghdad for a delegation to go to Baghdad,” Barzani disclosed.
“What we know so far is that Baghdad will [again] commit to sending the funds that it has sent for the salary takers in the Kurdistan Region. We do not believe there will be a problem with that,” PM added.
Last month, Baghdad sent funds for the payment
of KRG’s salaries, somewhat alleviating the financial crisis in the region in the short term.
“If you look at the situation generally, our steps are forward, not backward, not everything is to our liking, but we believe we are going forth on a straight line, not backward,” said Barzani.
Reports emerged lately that Peshmerga forces would return to Kirkuk and disputed territories under American auspices, but the reporting was refuted by the Peshmerga ministry.
“Officially, there are no dialogue between us, Baghdad and America, for the return of Peshmerga to these areas. Of course we are concerned with the deterioration of the security situation in these areas. We have information. We are concerned. We support Baghdad’s steps for the safety and security of people in these areas,” said Barzani.
The Peshmerga forces retreated from the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories following the Iraqi army incursion into the disputed territories on October 16.