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The Erasmus Mundus “Marhaba” Project was launched in the University of Santiago de Compostela

On Monday the University of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, held an opening event for the Erasmus Mundus “Marhaba” Project which it will be coordinating.

The project has been sponsored by the European Commission with a total of €2,394,050 of funding having been allocated to see the project through. The aim of “Marhaba” is to develop collaboration between university students and staff of the European Union and Iraq/Iran. It has been designed to enhance the capacity, transparency and employability as well as skills and qualifications of academic institutions and individuals. The project includes countries participating from eighteen universities, four from Iraq, five from Iran and nine from the European Union (Spain, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, UK, Bulgaria and Poland). The project will last until the 14th of July 2018 and scholarships will be awarded over this period to applicants that have been selected by their respective institutions. The program is designed to finance the expenses of the students and academics that have been selected, including: travel costs, visa costs, subsistence costs, participation costs and insurance costs.

The universities that successfully applied to partake in the program from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq were: Halabja University, Koya University, Slemani University and Raparin University. Their application process and their partaking in the project has been, and will continue to be, supported by the office of the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in Spain. An overall of 41 places have been allocated to students and academics of the four Kurdish universities. The places have been allocated as follows: 15 Undergraduate, 7 Masters, 8 Doctorates, 2 Post-doctorates, and 9 Staff.

The opening ceremony held yesterday was attended by representatives from all our Kurdish Universities, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to Spain, Daban Shadala. It began with a welcoming speech delivered by the vice rector for the Internationalisation of the University of Santiago de Compostela, Professor Carlos Salgado. He thanked those who were involved in making the project happen and the European Commission for its funding. The KRG Representative to Spain Daban Shadala then thanked the University for its role in the project and gave a brief insight into the state of higher education in the region, stating that it “had been neglected during the regime of Saddam Hussein, but since his overthrow in 2003, the standards of higher education have been improving dramatically.” He praised the “Marhaba” initiative as a project that could “enhance the academic experience and growth of all participants.” The Project Office from the European Commission, Karolina Garbaliauskaite, also gave her thanks for all those who had participated in making the project possible, and to the University of Santiago de Compostela for coordinating and managing the project.

The representatives of the Kurdish Universities were then given the opportunity to present their respective institutions to the guests. Following the University presentations a general overview of the “Marhaba” project was given, this included highlighting the role of the University of Santiago de Compostela as the coordinator and the role of the partner universities. The next day there was a workshop given to the representatives of the universities which gave a technical breakdown of the project including its management and quality control aspects.

The inauguration of this project is a sign of the development that the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is going through in order to further advance its educational standards to meet those of various European institutions.

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President Barzani Welcomes UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRP.org) – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani welcomed UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday.

In a meeting in the President’s office in Salahaddin, the President and the UK Foreign Secretary discussed the fight against ISIS terrorists, recent advances by the Peshmerga forces, and the political process in Baghdad.

President Barzani thanked the UK and other coalition countries for their support to the Peshmerga forces and noted the recent gains by the Peshmerga forces against the terrorists.

Foreign Secretary Hammond commended the role of Kurdistan and the Peshmerga forces in the fight against the ISIS terrorists and recognized that the Kurdistan Region bears the lion’s share of this fight.

Both agreed that to defeat ISIS terrorists, in addition to joint military, political, and economic effort, there is also a need to confront their twisted ideology.
On the political process in Iraq, President Barzani stated that the Kurds have decided to support the new Iraqi prime minister.

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Netherlands offers military support to Peshmerga forces

The Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Ms Lilianne Ploumen, visited Erbil yesterday to discuss the latest security and humanitarian developments with Kurdish leadership.

The Minister and her delegation met with Minister Falah Mustafa, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, and Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi.

Minister Ploumen lauded the extraordinary role of the Kurdistan Region’s people and government in not only fighting the terrorists but also providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of displaced people, especially members of ethnic and religious minorities. She stated that the efforts to alleviate the suffering of IDPs and refugees are very admirable.

The Minister welcomed the formation of an international coalition in the fight against ISIS terrorists, adding that the Netherlands is willing to support and participate in the coalition forces’ battle against the terrorists.

She said, “The Dutch Government has decided to offer military aid to the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Peshmerga forces. We are also determined to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region.”

On behalf of the KRG, Minister Mustafa noted his appreciation for the support of the Dutch Government and briefed Minister Ploumen on the latest humanitarian and security developments. He stated that the KRG has made a concerted effort to care for refugees and the displaced, but further support from the international community is urgently required, as the needs of these civilians are beyond the KRG’s capacity.

Minister Mustafa also briefed Minister Ploumen on the latest military advances of the Peshmerga forces. He reiterated the commitment of the Peshmerga forces to fight the terrorists, calling for further military assistance from the international community in order to continue degrading the terrorist organisation and win battles on the ground.

Finally, Minister Mustafa called for the support of the Netherlands as the KRG seeks international recognition of crimes committed against religious and ethnic minorities by the terrorists as acts of genocide.

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German Minister pledges continued military and humanitarian support for Kurdistan

A German delegation, headed by Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller, arrived in Erbil yesterday to discuss the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region.

The delegation met with Minister Falah Mustafa, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi, the KRG Representative to Germany Dilshad Barzani and other senior officials.

Minister Mustafa thanked the delegation for visiting Kurdistan at such an important time, noting the KRG’s sincere appreciation for the humanitarian and military support provided by Germany.

The Minister said that throughout history the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have proven their courage and resilience. They are currently risking their lives as they beat back the terrorists in order to protect all civilians in Kurdistan, including the many ethnic and religious minorities now sheltered in the Kurdistan Region.

Highlighting the necessity of continued military support for the Kurdistan Region, Minister Mustafa said, “The support of the international community is vital if we are to continue to push back the terrorists and preserve our Region’s culture of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.”

Minister Mustafa called for Germany’s moral, legal, and political support as the KRG seeks international recognition of terrorist crimes committed against religious and ethnic minorities as acts of genocide.

He added, “We thank the German Government for its brave decision to provide military aid. We know that it was not an easy decision for Germany to make, but it certainly was the right decision. We are most grateful.”

Minister Muller commended the KRG on its tremendous economic and political development over the last few years. He said, “I would like to express my deepest respect to the KRG for what it has accomplished during recent years in terms of creating stability in the Region. The KRG should be proud of achieving such a high level of stability, economic growth, and peace. The Kurdistan Region can be a model for the rest of Iraq.”

He added, “In the past fifty years, we have not been involved in providing military weapons to areas affected by conflict. But we decided to provide military support to Kurdistan, and we are determined to continue to do so, because IS [terrorists] are not only a regional threat, but a threat to the whole world. I assure you that Germany will be on your side.”

Minister Muller also praised the role of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, saying, “The Kurdish Peshmerga forces deserve the utmost respect from the international community because they are fighting to preserve peace, freedom, religious tolerance, and democracy.”

Minister Muller also informed Minister Mustafa that the German government has increased its humanitarian assistance for IDPs and refugees sheltered in Kurdistan by €25 million and reiterated that the German Government will continue to provide such humanitarian aid.

The Deputy Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Karwan Jamal, Germany’s Acting Consul General Oliver Schnakenberg, and senior officials from both sides attended the meeting.

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KRG delegation meets President Erdogan and World Economic Forum Chairman

Upon an official invitation from Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and World Economic Forum Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani headed a KRG delegation to participate in the World Economic Forum’s event in Istanbul.

The delegation met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the event.

Meeting with President Erdogan

In the meeting both sides discussed the latest political developments in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the Middle East in general, with particular emphasis on the terrorist attacks on the provinces of Ninevah and Salahaddin and later on the Kurdistan Region. They also discussed ongoing fighting between the Peshmerga forces and the terrorists, noting the significant territory that has been reclaimed by the Peshmerga. The political process in Iraq and its new government, headed by Prime Minister Haider Abadi, was also a topic in the meeting.

President Erdogan assured the KRG delegation that Turkey would enhance its relations with the Kurdistan Region in a better way and reiterated Turkey’s commitment to the bilateral relationship and agreements made with the Kurdistan Region across all sectors. He noted the importance of helping and supporting the Kurdistan Region even more because of the recent attacks. The President stated that Turkey has thus far provided a great deal of humanitarian aid and promised that his country would continue providing such assistance. He added that his country is in close coordination with the coalition forces in confronting terrorism and that this coordination will also include the Kurdistan Region in order to combat any threats to the broader Middle East region.

Prime Minister Barzani thanked President Erdogan for his stance and for his country’s assistance, adding that the Kurdistan Region seeks further support and assistance from Turkey. He agreed on the importance of further expanding the economic and political relationship with Turkey. Regarding relations with Baghdad, the Prime Minister noted that the Kurdistan Region chose to participate in the new Iraqi government to give the government a chance to resolve outstanding issues between Erbil and Baghdad. This would lead to better ties among Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region, he said.

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum event the delegation met with a number of heads of state and senior officials from across the world and also attended a dinner hosted by President Erdogan in honour of the participants of the event.

Meeting with World Economic Forum Chairman Professor Schwab

In the morning the delegation held a meeting with World Economic Forum Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab. In the meeting they discussed the latest political and security developments, and Professor Schwab praised the progress that has been achieved in the Kurdistan Region. He also lauded the KRG for generously sheltering more than a million Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees. He explained that the Kurdistan Region has garnered praise and gratitude from the entire international community because of this humanitarian gesture.

Professor Schwab stated that he hopes the international community and donor countries will pay more attention to the Kurdistan Region, adding that he wishes to visit in the near future. Prime Minister Barzani extended him an official invitation, adding that the KRG would be pleased to host a World Economic Forum event one day.

Prime Minister Barzani was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Minister of Natural Resources Dr Ashti Hawrami, Minister of Finance and Economy Rebaz Mohammad Hamalan, Minister of Planning Dr Ali Sindi, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa and KRG Spokesperson Minister Safeen Dizayee.

The KRG delegation participated in a number of different sessions and panels at the event and in meetings on the sidelines on a wide range of subjects.

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Czech Republic renews policy of military support to Kurdistan Region

The Government of the Czech Republic has renewed its policy of military support to the Kurdistan Region and confirmed that it will provide Peshmerga forces with weapons and equip them with the latest and most modern military technology.

Minister Sinjari discusses security cooperation with Minister Chovanec

The Czech Republic made clear its position during a meeting with KRG Minister of Interior Karim Sinjari. Minister Sinjari met with Czech government officials upon the invitation of his Czech counterpart, Minister Milan Chovanec.

In the meeting, Minister Sinjari discussed the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the Middle East in general. He also discussed the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, as well as the critical role of the international community in providing assistance to the Kurdistan Region and continuing in efforts to eradicate terrorism from the region.

Minister Chovanec expressed the commitment of the government and people of the Czech Republic to assist the government and people of Kurdistan in the war against ISIS terrorists and against terrorism in general. He also conveyed the Czech Ministry of Interior’s willingness to coordinate with the KRG Ministry of Interior in providing supplies and advanced security technology, as well as establishing training courses for the Region’s security personnel.

At a joint press conference, Minister Chovanec stated that the Czech Republic’s police force is prepared to hold training courses for KRG security personnel in detecting and defusing bombs and explosive devices. He also announced that he had requested Czech police force officials to accelerate plans for the provision of assistance to the KRG Ministry of Interior in combating terrorism.

Minister Sinjari expressed his confidence in the Czech Republic’s assistance, pointing to the importance of the provision of technologically advanced security systems, surveillance systems, and the establishment of training courses to bolster KRG security forces in various fields. He added that the KRG considers the Czech Republic a long-term partner.

In the context of the visit, Minister Sinjari held a number of meetings with various Czech security officials regarding coordination and cooperation between the two interior ministries.

Minister Sinjari conducts further meetings with senior Czech officials

Minister Sinjari also met with Deputy Minister of Defense Tomas Kuchta. Both officials discussed how best to strengthen cooperation between Kurdish and Czech armed forces. After the meeting, Minister Sinjari visited a factory and storage units where Czech forces store heavy weapons, including tanks and armored vehicles, to get a better sense of the military capabilities of the Czech Republic. The Minister underscored the need for military support from Czech armed forces for the KRG’s Interior and Peshmerga ministries in the battle against ISIS terrorists.

The Minister later visited the Czech Foreign Ministry. He briefed senior foreign ministry officials, led by Mr Lukasz Kautsky, on the latest political and security developments in Kurdistan. He also detailed the plight of the displaced people from other parts of Iraq and refugees from Syria, emphasising the need for the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to these families. Czech Foreign Ministry officials restated their government’s commitment to support the Kurdistan Region and help provide aid to the displaced people sheltered in Kurdistan.

Finally, Minister Sinjari visited the office of the President of the Czech Rebublic, where he met with the President’s Advisor for International Relations, Mr Hynek Kmonicek. They discussed the importance of bolstering bilateral relations, and both officials shared similar views on a number of strategic issues. Both highlighted the value of high-level visits between Erbil and Prague and supported the prospect of such delegations in the future.

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A statement from the President of the Kurdistan Region on terrorist attacks on Kobane

“In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful…

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s brutal attacks against our brothers and sisters in Kobane are part of a larger plan perpetrated by the terrorists against the people of Kurdistan. The barbaric and terrorist attacks of ISIS on Kobane and the Western part of Kurdistan threaten the whole entirety of the Kurdish nation and it has targeted the honor, dignity and existence of our people.

I ask all the political entities of Kurdistan to set aside their differences and together defend the dignity, land and the lives of the people of Kobane. Defending the land and people of Kurdistan is the duty of everyone and it must come before all else.

I’d like to request the international community to take every measure as soon as possible to save Kobane and the people of West Kurdistan from the hands of the terrorists. The ISIS terrorists perpetrate crimes and tragedies wherever they are, therefore they have to be hit and defeated wherever they are.”

Masoud Barzani
President of the Kurdistan Region
19 September 2014

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China to open consulate general in Erbil

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani today received Mr Tan Banglin, envoy from China’s Foreign Ministry appointed to be the first Chinese consul general in the Kurdistan Region.

Mr Banglin said that he was very pleased to visit the Kurdistan Region, stating that he has arrived in the Region during this difficult time to express China’s solidarity and support for Kurdistan and to determine how China can aid the Kurdistan Region in assisting refugees and the displaced.

He added that in the framework of China’s relations with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, China’s Consulate General in Erbil will be inaugurated in the coming two months and that he will be appointed as his country’s first consul general in the Kurdistan Region. Through opening the consulate Mr Banglin said he will do his best to establish a bridge between China and the Kurdistan Region and will encourage Chinese companies and investors to participate in the reconstruction and economic development of the Region.

Prime Minister Barzani welcomed Mr Banglin to the Kurdistan Region and applauded China’s decision to open a consulate in Erbil and strengthen its ties with the Kurdistan Region. He said the decision is a vote of moral support for the Kurdistan Region at this challenging time, welcoming the step and conveying his full support for the decision to open the consulate.

In the meeting both sides discussed the mutual importance of strengthening bilateral ties in all sectors, especially trade and industry, as well as social and political relations. Both agreed on the need to support the KRG in fighting the terrorist militants.

Once the Chinese Consulate General in Erbil is inaugurated, all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council will have diplomatic representation in the Kurdistan Region.

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Kurds set time limit on power-sharing negotiations with Iraq

Wall Street Journal

by Jay Solomon

Kurdistan’s semiautonomous government is giving Iraq’s new leadership three months to negotiate a new power-sharing agreement with Erbil, or see it move forward with an independence bid, the region’s de facto foreign minister said in an interview.

Such a bid by the Kurdistan Regional Government would pose a major challenge to the Obama administration’s strategy to stabilize Iraq and push back the territorial gains made by the Islamic State terrorist organization in recent months.

The White House has pressed the Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities to unify behind the Islamist militants under new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The U.S. has also made the Kurdish military forces, called the Peshmerga, a cornerstone of its military strategy against Islamic State.

“This is the last opportunity that is there” to forge a power-sharing deal, said Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations. “Baghdad has the opportunity to show it has the political will, and to show us we are all equal partners.”

The core issues Erbil and Baghdad need to find common ground on include the KRG’s demand to control its oil exports; the funding of the Peshmerga; the status of disputed territories like the Kirkuk region; and the allocation of resources from the central government.

Mr. Abadi, a Shiite politician, has pledged to mend ties with Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish regions after succeeding Nouri al-Maliki, who was accused of pursuing sectarian policies benefiting Iraq’s Shiite majority.

Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials have pressed Mr. Abadi to quickly reach agreement with Erbil and Iraq’s Sunni leaders. But Mr. Bakir said it was too early to tell if the new Iraqi leader would significantly change the policies of his predecessor.

“We have some positive elements,” the Kurdish diplomat said. “These are not issues that are unsolvable.”

Mr. Bakir also pressed the international community to provide the KRG with more heavy weaponry, such as tanks, helicopters and Humvees.

“The needs for being on the offensive are different from being on the defensive,” he said, in between meetings in Washington with State Department, White house and congressional officials.

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French President Hollande visits Erbil, meets President Barzani

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani welcomed French President François Hollande in Erbil on Friday.

After his arrival in Erbil, President Hollande and President Barzani visited a refugee camp in a district in Erbil, and later held a meeting. President Hollande, the first foreign head of state to visit Erbil since the crisis began, was accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabios and Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Following their meeting with President Barzani and KRG officials, the two Presidents held a joint press conference.

President Hollande said France would continue to provide humanitarian and military aid to Kurdistan in its fight against ISIS terrorists. He said that as the Kurdistan Region is at the forefront of the fight against ISIS terrorists, a delegation from Kurdistan is invited to attend an international conference, due in Paris next week, designed to coordinate international efforts to confront the threat posed by ISIS terrorists.

The French President also highly praised the role of the Peshmerga forces in this fight and pledged increased military aid to the Peshmerga forces.

President Barzani described the visit to Kurdistan by President Hollande as historic and thanked the president and people of France for standing by the people of Kurdistan in their hour of need, saying that France was the first European Union country to come to the aid of Kurdistan in the fight against ISIS terrorists. He also added that thanks to the support of France and other countries, the Peshmrega forces are now taking the fight to ISIS and have the upper hand. President Barzani vowed that the Kurdistan Region would continue to fight until the ISIS terrorist group is uprooted and destroyed.