British MPs held their first debate on the Kurdistan Region in three years. Photo: AFP/file
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – British MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their support for the Kurdish right to self-determination in the UK House of Commons first debate on the Kurdistan Region in three years.
Noting that Kurds had voluntarily joined Iraq in 2003 amid promises of federalism, MP Jack Lopresti said it was Iraq who has made the separation between Baghdad and Erbil by failing to meet a 2007 deadline to resolve the so-called disputed areas and cutting the Region’s budget share in 2014.
“Iraqi federalism has sadly failed and cannot be revived, because the Shia majority has no appetite for federalism or minority rights,” Lopresti argued.
“In effect, Iraq has severed itself from Kurdistan,” he declared.
Lopresti, who was recently elected
chair of the UK’s all-party parliamentary group on Kurdistan (APPG), called on the UK to send observers to monitor a September 25 referendum on independence, arguing that the vote is not a unilateral declaration of independence but is a stepping stone to negotiations with Baghdad.
The Conservative MP put to the House of Commons in Westminster Hall that supporting Kurdish independence would be a strategic move for the West.
Lopresti also advised the government to “nurture relations with the Kurds, as they are a beacon of moderation and pluralism and support for western values.”
MP Robert Halfon echoed this sentiment, saying that though Kurdistan has problems, “it successfully has the essential ingredients for a flourishing society.”
Halfon, who has visited the Region, described it as an “extraordinary place,” hailing its commitment to the rule of law and protection of minorities.
While MPs from the Conservative, SNP, and Labour parties all expressed support to the Kurdish right to hold the referendum, the minister for the Middle East said the government’s position remains fixed.
Minister Alistair Burt said that the UK government “will treat the situation with extreme care for we recognize… that what any particular region may do in the Middle East has ramifications, and Kurdistan is no exception.”
“We understand the aspirations of the Kurdish people and will continue to support them politically, culturally and economically within Iraq,” he said. But, he believes that a referendum at this time will distract from the war against ISIS and addressing the issues that led to the rise of ISIS.
“That is why we maintain that any referendum or political process towards independence must be agreed with the Government of Iraq in Baghdad and that unilateral moves towards independence would not be in the interests of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, or wider regional stability,” the Minister concluded.