Kurdistan Region Presidency Expresses Concern about Iraq PM Statements Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq – Kurdistan Region Presidency in a statement expressed its sadness and concern over the killing of journalist Mohammad Bidewi and extended its condolences to the family of the victim, who was killed on the 22 March. The statement by the Kurdistan Region Presidency said, “it is unfortunate that following this incident, the Iraqi Prime Minister resorted to the inappropriate and foul expression of ‘blood for blood’ which is far from principles of rule of law, statesmanship, co-existence and democracy. “On behalf of the people of Kurdistan, we believe it is important that this case be handled through the legal channels, away from illegitimate political whims. The people of Kurdistan have decided to live in a peaceful and fraternal way within Iraq. If Baghdad rulers don’t want this fraternity, and repeatedly create problems using various excuses, then let us sit down and end this problematic relationship.”
US Vice President Biden Speaks with President Barzani
Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq - US Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani on Thursday. On behalf of the United States, the Vice President extended a Happy Nowruz to the President and the people of the Kurdistan Region. The two discussed bilateral relations, the latest political and security developments in Iraq, and disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. They both concurred that the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad be addressed through dialogue and understanding. 1
President Barzani Congratulates Women on International Women’s Day Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani congratulated the women of Kurdistan, Iraq, and the world, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on 8th March. Emphasizing the important role women play in the Kurdish society, in his message the President said “it is the duty for all of us to respect women and their rights. I hope this provides an opportunity so that women’s grievances can be lessened, and I also hope there will be an end to the violations of women’s rights in Kurdistan. ”
Turkish Foreign Minister visits Kurdistan to boost mutual relations
Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq – Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu visited Kurdistan on Tuesday 4 March where he met with President Masoud Barzani and the KRG Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani to discuss further strengthening relations between Turkey and the KRG; and to attend the Second Sulaimani Forum at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani (AUIS). The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his accompanying delegation met with the President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani in Erbil. The two sides discussed bilateral relations, Iraq’s political and security challenges, including the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq, and the Syrian conflict. The Turkish Foreign Minister was accompanied by the Undersecretary of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu, the Turkish Ambassador to Iraq, Faruk Qaimaqchi and the Turkish Consul General, Akif Anam. Both sides stated that they are very pleased with the status of their relations and expressed their willingness to further strengthen political, economic and cultural ties. Foreign Minister Davutoglu described President Barzani’s visit to Diyarbakir in 2013 as very significant and historical. On the planned upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections, President Barzani emphasized that these elections must be held on time and free from any obstacles. The KRG Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, the Chief of staff to the President, Dr. Fuad Hussein, KRG Minister of the Interior, Karim Sinjari, KRG Minister of Natural Resources Dr. Ashti Hawrami, KRG, 2
spokesman, Safeen Dizayee, and Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa were also present during the meeting. Prior to his meeting with President Barzani and the Prime Minister in Erbil, Foreign Minister Davutoglu visited Sulaimani for the first time, where he participated at the second annual Sulaimani Forum at AUIS and met with a number of officials from different political parties in Sulaimani. He attended the opening ceremony and first panel of this year’s edition of the Sulaimani Forum where he delivered the start of his speech in Kurdish and spoke about a number of important political issues in the opening Plenary Session which also included the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari and the Chairman of the AUIS and former KRG Prime Minister, Dr. Barham Salih.
“The two sides discussed bilateral relations, Iraq’s political and security challenges, including the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iraq, and the Syrian conflict.”
This year's Sulaimani Forum in Kurdistan’s cultural capital of Sulaimani was hosted by AUIS in cooperation with the University’s Institute of Regional International Studies (IRIS) for the 4th and 5th of March. The two-day Forum focused on “navigating challenges in the Middle East” and brought together senior politicians, as well as the academic and intellectual society from across the region to discuss complex regional and international issues.
President Barzani Meets UK Foreign Office Official
Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with the Director of the Middle East and North Africa at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr. Edward Oakden. The President and the UK Foreign Office senior official discussed bilateral relations, Erbil relations with Baghdad, and the Syrian crisis. On behalf of the UK government, Mr Oakden praised the role of President Barzani and the KRG for the support and assistance they have offered to the large number of Syrian refugees in Kurdistan. He also hailed the remarkable developments in Kurdistan, adding that the UK government is committed to continue its support of the KRG. The two also discussed the threat of terrorism in Iraq and in the region in general. They both underlined the importance of cooperation by all sides to confront terrorism. On the challenges facing the country, the President said that lack of adherence to the constitution is the source of the security and political problems facing Iraq. He added that the Baghdad government has abandoned the principle of power-sharing, and it does not consider the KRG as a partner. Our people have offered many sacrifices and would never accept being subordinates, the President said. 3
President Barzani Met International Committee of the Red Cross President
Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer. Mr. Maurer expressed the gratitude of the ICRC to the KRG for their support and close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, including ease with which ICRC staff visit KRG prisons. He added that this close partnership can become a model for his organisation’s operations in Iraq and elsewhere. The President reiterated full Kurdistan Regional Government commitment to cooperating with ICRC and on behalf of the people of Kurdistan thanked the ICRC for their support to the Kurdish people in the past.
Kurdistan MPs in Iraqi Parliament Meet President Barzani Salahddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani today met with members of the Iraqi parliament from Kurdistan in Salahaddin. In today’s meeting, the latest political developments in Iraq, KRG’s oil policy, and relations between Erbil and Baghdad were discussed, particularly the points of dispute between the two sides which have led to the current crisis between the two. The participants of the meeting considered Iraqi government’s decision to withhold KRG’s share of the budget, including the salaries of KRG employees, as illegal and as mixing the welfare of people with political disputes. Heads of the parliamentary lists from Kurdistan also briefed the President about the latest on the draft 2014 budget for Iraq. The participants unanimously agreed that the draft law was passed in the Iraqi council of ministers disregarding the principle of power-sharing. In addition, this draft contains many violations of the Iraqi Constitution and is full of threats against the Kurdistan Region. The participants of today’s meeting unanimously expressed their opposition to this draft bill to be put to a vote in the Iraqi parliament, until all necessary amendments proposed by Kurdistan lists have been made. The meeting requested that Article One of the draft law be amended and that all sections of the draft containing threats against the Region be removed. 4
Statement by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani: Oil export initiative by the Kurdistan Regional Government The negotiations with Baghdad on oil export and budgetary matters are ongoing. These negotiations have not yet resulted in any acceptable agreements. As a goodwill gesture the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has offered to make a contribution to Iraq oil pipeline exports to give the negotiations the maximum chance of success. The KRG contribution to oil export will be one hundred thousand (100,000) barrels per day effective from 1st April 2014, and will continue while the negotiations are proceeding in a positive direction. The KRG has not set any preconditions for this initiative. In the coming weeks, the KRG will seek a full settlement with Baghdad on the way in which the KRG’s oil exports and oil sales revenues are managed and controlled. The KRG shall at all times preserve its rights as defined in the permanent Constitution of Iraq.
The U.S. Welcomes the Announcement by the Kurdistan Regional Government Regarding Oil Exports The United States welcomes the decision by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to begin oil exports of 100,000 barrels-per-day on April 1 through the Iraqi-Turkey pipeline pursuant to existing export arrangements with the Government of Iraq (GOI). We further welcome the commitment from the KRG to ensure that these exports continue in parallel to ongoing talks towards a framework agreement on the management of the hydrocarbon sector. The United States urges the joint GOI-KRG committee, comprising experts from the GOI’s Ministry of Oil and the KRG’s Ministry of Natural Resources, to meet and assess future month-to-month export targets based on technical capacities and in a manner consistent with the Iraqi Constitution. Regarding the ongoing discussions towards a general framework agreement, the United States notes the progress that has been made in recent months including general principles that would allow for all Iraqis to benefit fairly and equitably from anticipated increases in oil production and export. We will continue to serve as a neutral broker and facilitator to the extent desired by the leadership of both the GOI and the KRG, consistent with our longterm partnership with Iraq as outlined by the Strategic Framework Agreement.
“The United States notes the progress that has been made in recent months including general principles that would allow for all Iraqis to benefit fairly and equitably from anticipated increases in oil production and export.”
Prime Minister Barzani welcomes Standard Chartered to Kurdistan Erbil, Kurdistan – Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the British international bank Standard Chartered to Kurdistan today at the inauguration ceremony of its Erbil branch. Mr. Barzani outlined the need for an improved banking sector in Kurdistan. He said, “I believe the time has come for us to seriously examine international financial practices and carefully consider how modern banking can help families and businesses to manage their wealth.” He added, “I have no doubt that the presence of Standard Chartered will help us move forward in this regard.” Mr. V. Shankar, the Standard Chartered CEO for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, said the company comes “with glitter in our eyes” and stated his optimism for the bank’s activity in the Region. Britain’s Consul General, Mr. Hugh Evans, underlined the United Kingdom’s confidence in its mutually beneficial relationship with the Kurdistan Region, applauding KRG policy and supporting the decision by Standard Chartered to commence operations in Kurdistan. Mr. Gavin Wishart, CEO of Standard Chartered in Iraq, also spoke on behalf of the bank.
Halabja designated as Kurdistan Region's fourth province Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (KRG.org) – On Thursday 13 March Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani formally designated Halabja as the fourth province of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. At the press conference following the ratification Prime Minister Barzani said, "I hope the actions of the KRG today have met the desires and the aspirations of the dear people of Halabja, and I hope that we have been able to bring some joy to the citizens of Halabja a few days before the anniversary of the horrible attack on the city 26 years ago." During a meeting with a number of KRG officials and the visiting delegation from Halabja, Prime Minister Barzani said that Halabja is a symbol for all of the oppression and suffering endured by the people of Kurdistan. He added that the decision to legally declare it a province was more than a gesture of kindness but a decision of genuine importance to the KRG. The Prime Minister highlighted that the decision had already been agreed by the Kurdistan Region Parliament in 1999. Prime Minister Barzani also noted that the KRG addressed this issue and implemented this decision in coordination with the Federal Government of Iraq so that Halabja can benefit from the same privileges enjoyed by all Iraqi provinces. The delegation of representatives from the province of Halabja included the mayor, representatives of administrative institutions, the Organisation of the Victims of Halabja, Islamic scholars, and members from civil society organisations and different political parties. The delegation welcomed the decision by the KRG. Members of the delegation said that the people of Halabja had been eagerly awaiting this decision. Following the meeting and official signature by the Prime Minister, participants attended a press conference where the executive decree was read aloud. Speaking to the press, Prime Minister Barzani congratulated the people of Halabja and expressed his pleasure that all political parties in the Kurdistan Region stood with a united voice in supporting this decision. 6
Barzani: Iraq can learn from Kurdistan model Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has announced that Iraq is going through a political and security crisis that threatens the country’s path to democracy. He believes that the Iraqi Government can learn from Kurdistan’s model to foster strong relations with its neighbors. In an interview with pan-Arab London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Barzani revealed the challenges currently facing the Iraqi political process: “Today Iraq faces a security and political crisis which has affected the democratization of the country, which everyone has struggled to achieve.” Regarding the current tensions between the government in Baghdad and its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia, Barzani said, “I’m quite surprised at the accusation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism.” He stated that Iraq should have strong relations with Riyadh instead of each accusing the other of supporting terrorists. “There is a very good opportunity facing Iraq to have strong relations with neighboring states, especially Saudi Arabia,” said Barzani. Recently Al-Maliki accused Riyadh of aiding terrorist groups inside Iraq and Syria.
Declaration of the joint meeting of representatives of Kurdistan in the Iraqi federal government and representatives of all Kurdish parties in Kurdistan's parliament Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq – Representatives of Kurdistan in the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi Federal Government, and representatives of political factions of the Kurdistan Region Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a comprehensive meeting at the KRG Council of Ministers to agree upon a common stance in response to the economic sanctions leveraged by the Iraqi Federal Government against the people and the government of the Kurdistan Region. Several viewpoints were exchanged regarding recent developments throughout the course of the meeting. A fourpoint declaration was unanimously adopted outlining the Kurdistan Region’s position: 1. Iraqi Kurdistan is part of Iraq according to the Constitution and is therefore entitled to all rights and authorities granted to it as stipulated by the Constitution. This includes its share of the budget derived from the national income. The central government cannot cut salaries under any pretext to use as leverage against the KRG. 2. Although the KRG has other options at its disposal to provide salaries and meet other needs of its people, negotiations should continue between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG based on the fulfillment of the Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights. 3. We call upon the Iraqi Prime Minister to rescind this illegal and unconstitutional policy. The Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget and salaries is a constitutional right and should be disbursed. Pending issues with the KRG should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation. 4. We call upon respected religious authorities, the United Nations, governments of countries with relations with Iraq, member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and member states of the Arab League to take responsibility by using their influence to end the policy of economic sanctions levied against the people and the government of the Kurdistan Region. This policy is unjustified in its entirety, blatantly violates constitutional law, and stands against international accords and the basic principles of human rights. 7
Kirkuki in Washington for talks on Kurdistan In a meeting at Washington D.C’s State Department, Dr Kamal Kirkuki Member of the political Bureau head of Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Relations held talks and exchanged views on the current political situation in the Kurdistan Region with Mr. Anthony Kodfri, director of Iraq’s office at USA State Department During the meeting, they exchanged views and extensively on the issue of the inclusion of both the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in the Tier III, devoted to the issue of the meeting completed the search in a positive way Dr Kirkuk and Mr Kodfri touched on the issues with the Iraqi government, the proceeding formation of a new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Halabja that has recently become a province after legislative decisions of Parliament. Dr Kirkuki explained the Parliament of Kurdistan was launched in 1999, which included the conversion of three cities in addition to Halabja, new provinces, and citied the Iraqi Constitution paragraph of Article 141 which provides recognition and recommence work with all laws, regulations and actions taken by the Parliament and the Government of Kurdistan since 1992; thus converting Halabja to a province is legally and constitutionally resolved by Parliament of Kurdistan and in accordance with Iraq's federal constitution. At a later stage, Dr Kirkuki focused on upcoming elections scheduled for April 30, 2014, the issue of Syrian refugees, as well as the growing Iraqis of various religions and ethnicities seeking refuge in Kurdistan.
“Iraqi Constitution paragraph of Article 141 which provides recognition and recommence work with all laws, reguAt the end of the meeting, Dr Kirkuki stated the aspirations and objec- lations and actions taken tives of the Kurdish leadership focused on the Kurdish people where it by the Parliament and aims for its citizens to coexist in peace, security and stability. the Government of Kurdistan since 1992; . It also discussed the situation in Kurdistan, and the future of relations with the Government in Baghdad, the Government formation process in thus converting Halabja to a province is legally Kurdistan, in addition to the legal steps taken by the Parliament of Kurdistan to convert a new County in Halabja, Kurdistan. He was refer- and constitutionally rering to elections scheduled for April 30, 2014, and the issue of Syrian solved by Parliament of refugees, as well as the growing Iraqi refugee in Kurdistan and of variKurdistan and in accorous components and religions dance with Iraq's federal constitution.” On the predicaments of the Iraqi government not allocating budget resources for civil servants in Kurdistan, Mr. Kodfri said the United States understands the distress of the Kurdish people and that budget and staff salaries must act intuitively within the framework of negotiations.
British Parliamentary delegation invites KDP foreign relations office to international conference on Kurds in Britain
Hemin Hawrami, head of Kurdistan Democratic Party’s foreign relations office, received a delegation from United Kingdom’s ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group’, which was headed by Lord Glasman, Emma Grubb and Gary Kent. Mr Hawrami raised the current political developments in Kurdistan and highlighted efforts in forming the next regional government. Members of the foreign relations office were in attendance at the meeting where the British delegation expressed their delight in visiting Kurdistan, praised the cooperation and stability of the region. The Syrian refugees in Kurdistan were another topic of their discussions. The APPG formally invited the KDP’s foreign relations office to attend an international conference on the Kurds in Britain that was accepted with appreciation by Mr Hawrami, who assured of his participation.
APPG) on Kurdistan’s remit is “to promote friendship and understanding between the people of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and Great APPGs are made up of at least 20 members from different parties and Britain and to encourage there are hundreds covering most countries and a bewildering range of the development of desubjects from Accident Prevention to the Film Industry, Football to Policing, Whisky and Smoking and Health. mocratic institutions in the Kurdistan Region as The APPG on Kurdistan meets regularly in the UK Parliament and hears part of the democratic from a range of groups. They work closely with the UK High Represenand federal process in tation of the Kurdistan Regional Government and link with the wider the rest of Iraq.” Kurdish Diaspora in the UK. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kurdistan’s remit is “to promote friendship and understanding between the people of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and Great Britain and to encourage the development of democratic institutions in the Kurdistan Region as part of the democratic and federal process in the rest of Iraq.”
Arab Nobel Prize winner hopes Kurds gain full rights
2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman has wished Kurdistan a happy Newroz and hopes that the Kurdish people will soon gain full political and social rights. Karman is a Yemeni journalist, politician and senior member of al-Islah political party, as well as a human rights activist. She leads the group ’Women Journalists without Chains,’ which she co-founded in 2005. She is a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date. Ahmed Zaweti, head of Al-Jazeera’s office in Erbil and a close friend of Karman told BasNews that the Noble Peace Prize winner has always been a great supporter of the Kurdish cause and has always followed the political and social developments of the region. “I’ve known her for 15 years and she has always asked me for news about Kurdistan and wishes Kurds to achieve all their political and social rights, including independence. She has often planned to come to Kurdistan, but she has not been able to yet,” said Zaweti. Zaweti spoke of a Saqifa conference they both attended, during which the future of the Kurdistan Region and Kurdish rights were discussed and voted upon; out of the 1,500 participants 56% voted in favor of full rights and independence for Kurds.
British MP recalls chemical attack on Halabja London, UK - British member of parliament Robert Halfon has tabled a motion marking the 26th anniversary of the chemical attack on Halabja and calling on the British government to formally recognise the act as part of a wider genocide against the Kurds. Mr Halfon, who is vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region, has visited Halabja and other parts of Kurdistan several times. He and fellow MPs in the group have actively campaigned with the Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation and the Kurdish diaspora to raise awareness of the genocide. 10
Mr Halfon's motion is not binding on the British parliament but by tabling it he expresses his view as an MP. Fellow MPs may also sign it as a show of support. The motion says, That this House recalls with repugnance the biggest single chemical weapons attack on civilians which was inflicted by the forces of Saddam Hussein on the town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan on 16 March 1988; further recalls that 5,000 men, women and children died immediately and many more thousands of people died later or were permanently injured, physically and psychologically; believes that this attack was part of a long-running policy of genocide against the Kurds of Iraq; and further believes that, in the absence of any likely national or international judicial process after so many years, the Government should follow the example of the House which, on 28 February 2013, formally recognised this action as genocide. The motion can be seen on the UK parliament website – Early Day Motion 1175, ‘1988 Chemical Weapon Attack in Halabja’: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1175
FAC launches inquiry into UK Government policy on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq The Committee is launching an inquiry into the UK Government’s policy on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in the wider Iraqi and regional context. Inquiry: UK Government policy on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Foreign Affairs Committee It would welcome submissions of evidence which address in particular: The implications for UK foreign policy of the existence of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the development of its relations with the rest of Iraq and with neighbouring countries The role of the UK Government in facilitating the development of a relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq which helps to realise the economic potential of both and to strengthen security and democratic government in Iraq and the wider region The UK Government's approach to trade and investment with, in and from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and the priorities that should be pursued there by the Prime Minister’s new Trade Envoy to Iraq, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne The financial and other assistance being offered in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and associated public bodies (including the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the British Council) to support the further development of parliamentary and governance capacity, democratic institutions (including a free media), civil society and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and to promote cultural and educational links with the UK How the FCO is organising its presence and resources in Iraq, in the light of the developing relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the rest of the country. Call for evidence: Interested groups or individuals are encouraged to send written submissions, which should be received by the Committee no later than Friday 28 March 2014. 11
Abdullah Gul: We Made Mistakes Against the Kurds By Deniz Serinci COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Speaking Kurdish and any expression of Kurdish culture was completely banned in Turkey until 1991. Now, Turkish President Abdullah Gul is distancing himself from his country’s past Kurdish policy. "I'm brave enough to admit past mistakes," Gul told the Danish newspaper Politiken on Saturday. In addition, the Turkish president predicts that, if the state gives the Kurds "democratic rights," there will be no reason for guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to "fight anymore". "The Kurdish question is about the democratic level. If you raise it, then the problems will fix themselves. If you take away all the reasons to fight, it is clear that the people will be with you," he told Politiken. In the interview, Gul stressed the "very good relations with" the Iraqi Kurds. "The Kurds are our relatives and they are not much different from us. We have no allergy to the Kurds. Today, the Kurdish region is developed by Turkish experts and engineers. If you go there, you will be impressed by how active Turks in Erbil and Sulaimani and other Kurdish areas of Iraq are." Many journalists, especially from the pro-Kurdish media, have been arrested in Turkey. The Turkish president admits problems with the press, while stressing that the press must be “free.” “Everyone in this country is free to write and publish, criticize or write their opinions freely. Even those with the toughest positions can freely publish and express their opinions." Recently, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to ban Facebook and YouTube, something that Gul had rejected. "It is technically impossible, and it is completely excluded. You cannot take a decision to shut down Facebook, YouTube or other channels," he told Politiken. According to Daniella Kuzmanovic, associate professor and Turkey expert at University of Copenhagen, Gul’s statements represent a break with Turkey's official position, held until the 1990s, that the Kurdish problem was not caused by democratic problems, but socio-economic factors. "Before, Turkish politicians used to say that the problem would be solved by improving the economy. Now, Gul is emphasizing that the Kurdish issue is solved with more democracy,” she told Rudaw. According to Sardar Sharif, a PhD researcher in international relations at the University of Dohuk, Gul's statements must be understood in light of the forthcoming local elections in Turkey on March 30. “Kurdish areas are on AKP (the ruling Justice and Development Party) focus, and Gul’s political statement at this time appears more as a political maneuver to capture Kurdish voters. 12
Another issue is that AKP also now uses its political relations with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in these elections, which is quite understandable,” he said.
"When Gul admits
In Turkey, the presidency is largely a ceremonial office. Yet, Gul’s statemaking mistakes ments are important, according to Kuzmanovic and Sharif. against the Kurds, it is
important because the head of state is of great importance to Turkey's international image. It is politically Kuzmanovic said that Gul has often disagreed with Prime Minister Ercourageous and dogan, for example on banning social media. Turkish media have been shows that you take a speculating over Gul's political ambitions, with some suggesting he could step forward to do betbecome prime minister, as he was briefly in 2002. ter," Sharif said. "When Gul admits making mistakes against the Kurds, it is important because the head of state is of great importance to Turkey's international image. It is politically courageous and shows that you take a step forward to do better," Sharif said.
"Gul’s opinions are important. The president of Turkey can veto a law and send them back to parliament for further work. And then, Gul is co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party, and is likely a political challenge to Prime Minister Erdogan."
Open the door to the Kurds By Editorial Board, AS BLOODSHED in Iraq and Syria has steadily escalated, the importance to the United States of one regional ally has been growing. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, which controls an autonomous enclave bordering Iran, Turkey and Syria, is democratic, secular, pro-Western and a determined enemy of the al-Qaeda forces that operate on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It wasn’t surprising that KRG President Massoud Barzani was booked for a visit to Washington and a likely meeting with President Obama last month. By the same token, his abrupt decision to postpone the trip is cause for concern. Mr. Barzani stayed home because the Obama administration and Congress have failed to fix an enduring irritant in the U.S.-Kurdish relationship: the presence of the region’s two leading political parties on a U.S. list of sanctioned organizations. Both Mr. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan were added after 2001 to a “Tier 3” group of organizations deemed to have provided material support to terrorism under the Patriot Act. The reason: Both parties supported the resistance to the regime of Saddam Hussein before the 2002 U.S. invasion of Iraq. This absurd anomaly is the result of overly broad Patriot Act language matched with excessively cautious U.S. government lawyers. The two political parties aren’t the only victims. Many people who have inadvertently done business with terrorists or al-Qaeda-linked groups around the world, or who fought against repressive regimes, have unjustly been swept onto the Tier 3 list. The designation is more than symbolic, since those named cannot obtain visas to enter the United States without a waiver. That includes Mr. Barzani and virtually every other senior official in a territory of 3.7 million people. U.S. administrations have promised the Kurds relief from the sanctions for years, but have failed to deliver. The Obama administration contends that a legislative fix is needed and proposes language specifically exempting the Kurdish parties from the Patriot Act provisions. That solution has encountered resistance in the Senate Judiciary committee, where some are pressing for a more general repair of the Patriot Act language rather than a case-by-case approach. The Kurds and their Washington lobbyists argue, in turn, that Congress and its chronic gridlock could be bypassed with a simple executive branch decision. What’s clear is that the impasse is damaging an important U.S. relationship at a critical moment — and that the fault lies entirely in Washington. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has led efforts in the Senate to end the sanctions on the Kurds, is planning to introduce a stand-alone bill on the matter in the coming weeks, with the Obama administration’s support. Congress should act quickly — and Mr. Barzani should reschedule his visit. 13
Iraqi Kurdistan an attraction for tourists amid regional unrest Louise Redvers ERBIL, IRAQ //Sara took the hours-long bus ride from Baghdad to Korek Mountain in northern Iraq to do something she had never done before. She wanted to see snow. “It’s fun and it’s nice,” said Sara, 26, an engineer, who visited the semi-autonomous region in early March with her husband Amjad and their one-year-old daughter, Zahra. “But it’s very cold,” she said, shivering as she clutched a bundled up Zahra tightly in her arms. Developing a tourism industry is important to the local Kurdistan Regional Government, which aims to diversify its economy to rely less on oil and natural gas. The goal is also important for broader Kurdish aspirations to be less beholden to the central government in Baghdad. “There are many, many projects being implemented and tourism is a key target for our government,” said Nadir Rwsty, the spokesman for the regional government’s tourism board. “We don’t want to be relying on the single resource of oil because it won’t last for ever, and tourism can bring direct benefit to the people.” Korek Mountain Resort is a place that the regional government hopes will put the region on the international tourist map. Korek Mountain itself is 2,120 metres at its peak, while the resort stands at around 1,800 metres. A rough and rocky dirt road is one way up, but a new cable car offers a smoother ride. The glass cars travel 1,000 metres in a matter of minutes and as the trees and buildings beneath begin to blur, an enormous panorama unfolds, revealing a stunning view out across the fields and the rolling mountains. “I can’t think of another teleferic like this in the Middle East, or of somewhere where you can go from one season to another in a matter of minutes,” said Robert Zogbi, the Lebanese chief executive of Innovationz, a Dubai-based Hospitality group that manages the resort for its Kurdish owners. “We believe a lot of people will want to come here, not just to ski, but also for the scenery and the fresh air.” So far Korek just has two small ski slopes, one for novice skiers and one for people who can ski at an intermediate level, though there are discussions about adding more slopes for more seasoned skiiers. Mr Zogbi, whose company also runs the Marjan Island Resort and Spa in Ras Al Khaimah, said he was confident that Korek would be a big pull for all sorts of tourists: Iraqis and foreigners, including those from the Gulf. “The UAE is definitely a target market for us. At the moment people are going to Jordan or Oman for cultural tourism, but we also think Kurdistan has a lot to offer for those looking for something beyond beach and sun.” 14
The Kurdistan Regional Government recently launched a $3 million (Dh11 million) marketing campaign targeting a global customer base including the UAE, United States, Europe and Turkey. “When people think of Iraq, they think it’s a danger zone, but it’s not like that here in Kurdistan,” said Balin Zrar, a project manager with The Other Iraq Tours, one of the first companies to offer guided tours around Kurdistan.
“While Iraqi Kurdistan is booming, with esti“Many foreigners work here and visit here, and we have a lot of people coming here from abroad.” mated oil reserves of 45 billion barrels and When Saddam Hussein was in power, Iraqi Kurdistan suffered as the reprotected output of gime imposed an economic blockade on the region in response to an upone million barrels per rising. day by 2015, some have questioned the “We do still have a lot of work to do because we were under Saddam for a long time, and we were closed off from the outside world,” Mr Zrar massive increase in said. hotel construction that has seen international “Even today many people here haven’t been outside of Kurdistan so they brands such as don’t necessarily know what tourism is about, so we do need more trainKempinski, Marriot, ing and education for people to work in the sector.” and Hilton, as well as Mr Rwsty said a high school focusing on tourism and hospitality had just smaller luxury chains opened in Erbil, and regional training centres were also under construclike Greece’s Civitel, tion. prepare to open fivestar facilities in About two thirds of Kurdistan’s visitors are middle-class Iraqis like Sara Erbil.” and Amjad, who travel north for a weekend to picnic by a waterfall or window shop in one of Erbil’s new malls. And beyond that, with the exception of those attending tours led by Mr Zrar and others, the rest are mostly businessmen linked to the energy and construction industries. While Iraqi Kurdistan is booming, with estimated oil reserves of 45 billion barrels and protected output of one million barrels per day by 2015, some have questioned the massive increase in hotel construction that has seen international brands such as Kempinski, Marriot, and Hilton, as well as smaller luxury chains like Greece’s Civitel, prepare to open five-star facilities in Erbil. “I do have concerns that there is overdevelopment, or will be when all these announced hotels have been built,” said Paul Bailey, a former oil and gas lawyer and now managing director of Erbil-based Definitus, an international consulting and private equity firm.
“Tourist numbers are growing but it is questionable whether many of the domestic tourists have the means to enjoy five star hotels,” said Mr Bailey. “I also remain to be convinced that people in the wider Middle East looking for a skiing holiday are going to choose Korek when they can go to established resorts in Lebanon or Turkey, which are only one more hour away on a plane.” Back on Korek Mountain, the day-trippers from Baghdad were whirred down the mountain in the teleferic to their waiting minibus as the sunset created a warm pink glow in the sky. “It’s quite beautiful here and a very unique setting,” said Mr Zogbi. “I think people will want to come.” The National 15