MUNICH, Germany — Kurdistan Region security chief Masrour Barzani lead a delegation from the Region at the annual Munich Security Conference.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday evening, Barzani shared details of his talks with ministers.
“During these meetings, we exchanged our points of views and discussed many important regional questions including the situation of Syrian Kurds, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s relations with Baghdad, and the Kurdistan Region’s economic situation,” he said.
“We have also attempted to make those countries which are our friends assist the Kurdistan Region.
“The threat of ISIS resurgence was another topic we intensely discussed and exchanged opinions with these countries as they are our allies and were with us in the course of the past years in the fight against terror,” Barzani added.
“We hope these meetings become a factor to bring in more support to the Kurdistan Region and mobilize more international support to the Kurdistan Region.”
Barzani met with several foreign and defense ministers on Saturday, including Iranian FM Javad Zarif.
Zarif stressed the need for better economic cooperation that could include free-trade and free-industrial zones.
The Iranian minister described the meeting as "very good," reiterating last month's "excellent" visit to "Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan."
"We discussed today not only our bilateral relations with Iraq and with the Kurdish regional government, but also developments in the establishment of the regional government of Kurdistan, the parliamentary arrangements, as well as regional issues with Syria,” he said.
The idea of a free-trade zone between the Kurdistan Region and Iran has been discussed to encourage trade and discourage double taxation.
"We discussed both free-trade zones and free-industrial zones. I think what is useful for both countries is for both countries, Iran and Iraq, as well as the region of Kurdistan, is to have free-industrial zones to use both the raw materials and the human resources of both sides and produce and use the possibilities for export," explained Zarif.
"Our plans are for greater economic interaction between Iran and Iraq and Iran and the regional Kurdish government," added Zarif, explaining that private sector deals were discussed during his visit to the Kurdistan Region.
US President Donald Trump has said that he wants to see Iranian exports at "zero," although analysts see this unlikely given close ties with countries like Iraq.
"We are neighbors. We are actually the same people. We will continue to have relations. The outsiders will go sooner or later," Zarif said while chuckling.
Barzani and Zarif also discussed "the situation in the eastern Euphrates and how to deal with the territorial integrity of Syria as well as making sure the rights of the Kurdish people in Syria are fully respected."
Tehran is the Kurdistan Region's second-largest trade partner behind Turkey.
Barzani also met with Ursula von der Leyen, the German defense minister, late on Saturday evening.
“We had a very good meeting with Mr Barzani,” von der Leyen said. “It was a pleasure to see our Kurdish friends again. And of course I am always very interested to listen to the in depth knowledge our Kurdish friends do have where the region is concerned. And it was good to talk about the projects we have together like the Peshmerga hospital for example and the training of Peshmerga in Erbil and the area.”
Asked to comment on the formation of the new government in Erbil, the German defense minister said: “It’s a good rule to never, ever get mixed into internal affairs. We are observing the process of government building with very positive emphasis. We hope it will be a very inclusive government. This will be good for the stability of the region and we’re looking forward then, sooner or later, to welcome the new government.”
Rudiger Lucassen, a German MP from the AfD, speaks Rudaw on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 16, 2019.
Earlier in the day, Barzani met with German MPs Rudiger Lucassen, Anton Friesen, Berengar Elsner von Gronow, and Jens Kestner.
German MP Rudiger Lucassen described the atmosphere in their meeting between the delegations from Erbil and Berlin as "very friendly."
"We talked about the peace process, the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and also about the relationship between the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and the central government in Iraq," he said.
Germany has been an ardent supporter of the Peshmerga through and after the ISIS conflict. The first hospital dedicated for wounded Peshmerga was completed this month with $4.8 million in funds from Berlin.
"In the first step we can proceed in supporting the military side as far as nation building and training of the Peshmerga is concerned.
UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson and his British delegation meet with Masrour Barzani on the sidelines of the MSC, February 16, 2019. Photo: KRSC
Barzani also met with UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.
“In the meeting held on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, Chancellor Barzani thanked Secretary Williamson for UK’s support in the war on ISIL, and training to Peshmerga Forces,” according to a readout from Barzani’s office.
“They agreed that combating the continued ISIL threat in Iraq and beyond requires sustained, global cooperation.”
“They also discussed the situation in Syria. Chancellor Barzani urged UK to help advance a long-term agreement that prevents further conflict and gives local communities guarantees about their future, including the Kurdish people,” the statement added.
Speaking to reporters, Williamson said he had “a very positive meeting to discuss a whole wide range of issues.”
“There has always been a strong affection and a real commitment between the British people and Kurdistan. We always have been supportive and will continue to be supportive in future,” he said.
UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the MSC, February 16, 2019. Photo: Rudaw video
Asked whether British troops will remain in Iraq long term, Williamson said: “I don’t I’m afraid have an opportunity to talk about operational matters, but we have had a long and sustained relationship over many years and I’m sure that will continue into the future.”
He also held talks with Geir Pederson, the UN Secretary-General special envoy to Syria and Hulusi Akar, Turkey's defense minister.
On Friday, Barzani met with Iraq’s National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayyadh and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov.
Barzani has been tipped by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to become the Kurdistan Region's next prime minister as government formation talks continue.
This is a developing story... Update: 10:32 p.m.