Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Government, has expressed that relations between Kurdistan and Iran are in good standing and that the KRG is eager to resume flights between the two. During a press conference last week the Prime Minister said, “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,” when asked if flights between Tehran and Kurdistan would be available soon.
When the KRG held its independence referendum last October, Iran was among one of the first countries to respond by closing its borders. It also supported Iraq’s paramilitary forces, the Hashd al-Shaabi, who later annexed Kirkuk and forced out the Kurdish Peshmerga. Presently, Iraq is selling Iran the oil being produced in Kirkuk so it is safe to say there was cooperation for the sake of economic interests between the two nations.
Turkey has removed its flight restrictions as well but only for the city of Erbil, stating that Sulaymaniah is a hub of PKK activity and support in Kurdistan while the authorities there enable its continuation. Barzani addressed this stating, “Concerning the return of flights to Sulaimani, yes, there are talks between us and Ankara. We will resolve this matter. We certainly expect other steps for the relations between Erbil and Ankara to be normalized … Turkey is an important country for us.” The KRG’s Minister of Planning, Ali Sindi, will soon attend a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul to discuss the situation further.
Prime Minister Barzani addressed the situation in Syria as well, demonstrating his support for the United States and its allies decision to strike at chemical weapons production facilities operated by the Assad regime. He said, “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.” Kurdistan’s support of eliminating a chemical weapons threat comes as no surprise given that the Kurds have been the victims of them in the past. The Saddam regime executed a major chemical weapons strike in 1988 on the city of Halabja that the Kurdish people have yet to forget, in total 10,000 people were injured and around 5,000 were killed.
In reference to the Iraqi elections, Barzani told press that, “We hope that a successful election will be held for all of Iraq removed from violence. 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.” When asked if a delegation from the KRG would be visiting Baghdad anytime soon he said, “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. 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.” He added that, “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.”
The Prime Minister also touched on the subject of Kurdish military forces, primarily the Peshmerga, collaborating with Iraqi security forces in disputed regions such as Kirkuk. In reference to this he said, “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.”
Featured Image Courtesy of KRG.OFFICE [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons