Deputy chairman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani, former Kurdistan prime minister, warns the Iraqi government that it should solve its ethnic problems with the Kurds, especially that of the disputed oil-rich regions, in dialogue and in peace, and by no later than the end of 2012. Otherwise, he says, Iraq “will end up like Sudan,” referring to the southern Sudanese, who held a referendum last week to decide whether to secede from Sudan.
RUDAW: There are a number of pressing issues between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), including, primarily, the issue of the disputed regions, such as Kirkuk. Now that the KDP has recently held its party convention, our readers are interested to know your views on these issues.
Nechirvan Barzani: In the convention, the issue of Kirkuk and other detached territories were discussed at length. It should have been discussed more, however, but it did lead us to come up with a working plan. That notwithstanding, our decision was to work for the implementation of Article 140. This was the basis upon which all of us in Iraq have agreed, and the United States supported it in a formal statement when [Iraq’s] Election Law was passed.
Although some steps have been taken to implement [Article 140], the steps have been few and insufficient. The [Iraqi] Constitution required the article to be implemented by the end of 2007, and [if it had been implemented] the fate of those [disputed] regions would have been determined. The Kurdistan coalition’s 19-point list of demands requires its implementation in two years’ time, meaning by the end of 2012, and His Excellency [Iraqi Prime Minister] Nuri Maliki has agreed to these demands.
It’s now very important that Kurdistan’s political parties; Kurdistan’s people and media; Kurdistan’s presidency office, government and parliament; Kurdish lawmakers in Baghdad; Iraq’s deputy prime minister [Rozh Shawes]; and all Kurdish ministers and officials in Baghdad, including Iraq’s president [Jalal Talabani] cooperate with the Iraqi government in the implementation of this constitutional article.
When the article was not implemented [by 2007], it was a constitutional violation. We had already agreed that the issue had to be resolved as per the requirements of the Constitution. And now, if we find that the Constitution is not being respected, we should really think of other political and legal means to enforce the implementation of this constitutional article, and our Iraqi allies should not go back on their promises in regard to this. Also, the US should put what it has been insisting on into practice, since peace and progress in Iraq are very much related to this issue.
RUDAW: The southern Sudanese have just held an independence referendum, which is regarded worldwide as being highly pivotal. For some, it is important because one of the concerned parties is an Arab Muslim country. What does it mean to you, as a Kurd?
Nechirvan Barzani: As a liberal from Kurdistan – and one who is part of the world – I am happy that an ethno-national issue is being solved in a civilized way in a country that is at the same time Arab, Muslim and Eastern. I am also very happy to see voices from among the Arab intellectuals acknowledging that they have to apologize to the peoples of southern Sudan and Kurdistan. They have acknowledged that they were very unfair toward the Kurds and southern Sudanese. This shows significant awareness on the part of the Arab [intellectual] elite. I am also very happy, as I see the world supporting the process.
Since 1992, as a part of its right to self-determination, the Iraqi Kurdistan region has decided to choose federalism. In the past few years, the Kurds have proven to be a peaceful and unifying factor among the various Iraqi sectors. Therefore, all Iraqi parties concerned should consider the Kurds their real partners in the country, and implement the Constitution. Nations can only coexist in peace and with their rights respected, and not in war. Iraq has spent so much money and paid such a high price because of war. Because of the their [distinct ethnic] identity, Kurds have often been subject to oppression and mass murder throughout Iraq’s history, which I don’t think any Iraqi with a conscience is happy about. Iraq can only progress if it solves its problems. Through war and oppression, it will end up like Sudan.
January 19, 2011