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Kurdistan Region President receives U.S. Ambassador to Iraq

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, June 2, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller on Tuesday.

The latest developments in Iraq, the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, the recent ISIS movements and its terror threats were discussed at the meeting. The meeting was also attended by the U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Steven Fagin.

The two sides also discussed the ongoing efforts to fill the vacant ministerial posts in the newly formed cabinet of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi since taking office in May. The upcoming Iraq-U.S. strategic dialogue on bilateral relations, which is set to take place next month, was also highlighted.

President Nechirvan Barzani reiterated the support of the Kurdistan Region for Mr. Kadhimi’s government. The president also expressed the importance to fill the vacant ministerial posts in the nearest future and the new cabinets vital role to take decisive actions in addressing the economic, political and security challenges and containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both sides stressed the importance of the Iraq-U.S. strategic dialogue, which will serve as a roadmap for the future bilateral ties between the two countries. It was underlined that Iraq needs to specify its interests and priorities.

The support from the U.S. to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to overcome the current difficulties was also highlighted as well as the continued support from the global coalition in the fight against terrorism.

They also discussed the latest developments in the Kurdistan Region, the importance of cooperation among all political parties to overcome the current situation and the role of the Kurdistan Region Presidency in this regard. The importance of encouraging the private sector in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region were also highlighted in the meeting.

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Kurdistan Region President’s statement on the anniversary of PUK foundation

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, May 31, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani sent a congratulatory message to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan on the 45th anniversary of the party’s foundation. Below is the message:

Dear Co-leaders, Members of the Supreme Political Council and the Politburo of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

On the 45th anniversary of the PUK’s foundation, I congratulate the PUK leadership, all party members and supporters and I wish you all the success.

The PUK is an important part of Kurdistan’s liberation movement. Together with the Kurdistan Democratic Party and other political parties, the PUK has been a main force behind attaining the current achievements, the establishment of the Kurdistan Region’s institutions and securing the rights of the people of Kurdistan in the constitution of Iraq.

Similar to Iraq and the wider region, the Kurdistan Region is currently facing challenges and unforeseen conditions. These circumstances, more than ever, require unity, cooperation and consensus among us. It is the only way to safeguard our achievements. In the past, the cooperation and coordination between the late President Jalal Talabani, whom we pay tribute to today, and President Masoud Barzani led to great successes.

The Kurdistan Region Presidency will continue to work with all political parties to achieve political stability and unity, overcome current difficulties, preserve the constitutional entity of the Kurdistan Region and the rights of its people. It also expects Kurdistani patriotic stances from them as well.

As we mark this day, we salute the fallen heroes of the PUK and all the martyrs of Kurdistan who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their people. We honor and pay tribute to them and salute their families.

Nechirvan Barzani
Kurdistan Region President

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Prime Minister chairs meeting on government debt, details to go to auditing and parliament

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Sunday chaired a meeting with cabinet ministers to discuss the government’s outstanding debts and financial commitments.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the KRG’s Debt Management Office presented a detailed report.

Following an exchange of views, they decided to submit the report to the Board of Supreme Audit for review. The report will then be made available to the Kurdistan Parliament and the public.

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Prime Minister Masrour Barzani warns against worsening virus pandemic, calls for more guidance compliance

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement on Friday called on the public to continue complying with official health guidelines in order to protect themselves from the ongoing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Below is the text of his message:

My fellow citizens,

The risk from the novel coronavirus epidemic remains very serious. This disease could be about to spread quickly again following a recent decline in compliance with health guidelines.

From the outset of this outbreak, we called on the public to abide by the government’s clear health guidelines, and I thank you for your compliance. The pandemic was initially contained as a result. Our success over the virus so far also drew positive attention from many nations and international organisations.

However, compliance with the health guidelines has recently fallen. In addition, some parties have again tried to politicise the government’s attempt to curb the outbreak. They want to detract from the importance of these measures and to portray them as useless. They are unfortunately risking and using peoples’ lives to serve their political objectives. I call on those who have disregarded health guidelines and those who have encouraged people not to comply with the guidelines, to stop playing with peoples’ lives. They should take responsibility for putting peoples’ futures at risk.

I call once again on all my fellow citizens to abide by our health guidelines, to avoid risking their health and the health of their loved ones under the influence of such propaganda.

Your health is paramount to us.
Masrour Barzani
Kurdistan Regional Government
Prime Minister
29 May 2020

2020-05-26

PM Masrour Barzani speech on the current financial situation

My fellow citizens,

On the occasion of our Ramadan feast, I extend my warmest wishes to you all. At this time, I call upon you to continue to comply with our health guidelines in order to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the coronavirus pandemic while observing this holy feast.

The whole world, including the Kurdistan Region, is going through a difficult economic period due to the implications of the outbreak and falling oil prices. These are challenging times for the Kurdistan Regional Government. From the outset of this economic crisis, we have been doing our best to ease the financial burden on people throughout our region.

My fellow citizens,

From the start of this cabinet, we exerted all our efforts to resolve problems with Baghdad and to save the Kurdistan Region’s economy from the risks of relying on a single source of revenue.

This difficult economic situation is largely the result of the misplaced policy solely to depend on unstable oil revenues.

As for our relations with Baghdad, we took serious steps to improve our relationship. Immediately after we assumed office in July last year our first visit was to Baghdad. In addition, we expressed complete readiness for a constitutional solution to the various problems with the federal government, and proposed a number of solutions to the issue of oil exports. But unfortunately unrest erupted in Baghdad in October last year, forcing the Iraqi cabinet to resign amid public protests. From then on, the Iraqi government did not take responsibility to resolve the outstanding issues, including Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights and entitlements, which they have failed to deliver since 2005.

Now that there is a new government in Baghdad, led by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, we reiterate our readiness to resolve all problems in a way that guarantees the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region as a federal entity, as recognised by the Iraqi constitution.

Recently, a KRG delegation visited Baghdad three times to negotiate a deal on these issues. Dialogue will continue until we reach a fair and constitutional solution to these problems.

Fellow Kurdistanis

This financial crisis makes us even more committed to the strategy of diversifying our economy and the ongoing reform process, as well as putting an end to historical issues regarding public administration and finances.

Our citizens appreciate that correcting these wrongs and putting in place a stable economy needs more time and support from all sides.

Last week I chaired a cabinet meeting and approved the plan to combat this financial crisis. We also issued a number of measures related to the implementation of the Reform Law which remains an important part of the government’s agenda.

We are committed to continuing the reform process and putting an end to the waste of public wealth. Of course, these reforms threaten the interests of a number of individuals involved in corruption. That is why they resist and create obstacles. Reform is a demand from the vast majority for our citizens, and I will remain on their side. And with the help of our citizens, reforms will continue. We will not reverse course.

Of course, these reform measures must be comprehensive and apply to us all. No individual or faction must be allowed – for personal or political interests – to block reform.

I call on all sides to recognise their solemn responsibility to support us, protect our unity, and help the government in modernising the economy and public administration and improving public services.

In particular, I call on the Kurdistani representatives in the federal parliament to put aside individual and political interests and to unite behind protecting the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region.

This financial crisis is the result of a number of historical and political factors. This is in addition to the budget cut from the Iraqi government, as well as the global financial slowdown. However, this difficult situation cannot be used as a political tool to undermine each other, sow internal divisions or break up any part of our region under any pretext whatsoever.

In the government’s agenda, it clearly states a commitment to work to decentralise powers to governorates in a way that is in line with the region’s legal and administrative framework. Furthermore, provincial duties and responsibilities, in accordance with the law and under the supervision of the cabinet, will be devolved to prevent corruption and the abuse of power. We therefore support decentralisation in a way that continues to protect the integrity of the Kurdistan Region.

We have done everything possible to provide for citizens’ needs and public salaries. In the nine months the new cabinet has been in office, we have paid public sector salaries for eight months, with only one payment delayed.

We have also taken a number of decisions to reduce the burden on low-income families and those who, as a result of the public health and safety measures, have incurred losses.

But we must find a way to adapt to any unforeseen crisis. In line with our revenues and capacity, we have put in a place a plan for this difficult stage: the budget and expenses of government bodies and salaries will be organised and in accordance with measures outlined in the Reform Law.

Fellow citizens,

In my inauguration speech in the Kurdistan Parliament, I made clear that the government is in debt. This now stands at $27 billion. Most of the responsibility for this debt rests with previous Iraqi governments for their failure to deliver the budget of the Kurdistan Region. As a result, unfortunately the government has no reserves, forcing us to depend on revenues received monthly.

This leads to great uncertainty whenever financial crises emerge.

This is no secret. Unfortunately, this fact is often ignored. Indeed, political and national issues are ignored and the focus is put on salaries, despite critics knowing well the sources of these salaries.

When the income from our oil revenues stood at $700 million a month, over $400 million was spent on production, as well as transport and loan payments. Only $300 million was deposited in government accounts. Furthermore, only $383 million was received from Baghdad. This is inadequate to provide public sector salaries, and a significant amount of internal revenues was therefore used to pay salaries. On top of this, the necessary funds for running government and services were used from internal revenues. Nevertheless, there was still a $60 million monthly deficit.

Now, oil prices have fallen significantly. For example, last month, the total net revenue from oil sales deposited in the treasury was just $30 million. Internal revenues were merely $60 million. And the federal payments from Baghdad have been delayed. This financial crisis has not only affected Kurdistan Region, but the entire world. Some countries face financial collapse.

It is clear that in the past government spending has been both unjust and mismanaged.

80% of our revenue goes to public sector salaries; public sector beneficiaries make up 20% of the population.

This ratio, according to common global standards, is far more than necessary for the Kurdistan Region. In the best of financial circumstances, 15% of the budget was used for running government and services, leaving less than 5% for investment.

This unfair distribution has come at the expense of both potential reserves for the future and investing in the next generation.

This nation cannot prosper by only paying salaries. We need a stronger foundation.

It is not possible for citizens to only collect salaries but have no access to more water and electricity, better schools and hospitals, and safer roads. And even to be in need of basic public services.

Governance is not only about paying salaries.

That is why we together – as citizens, government and political parties – need to make a consequential decision that even in better financial circumstances most of the revenues cannot be spent on public sector salaries. We must use a significant part of the budget for increasing public services and building a stronger economy.

No government can employ so many citizens in the public sector and pay salaries. Only through developing our economic foundations, and encouraging investment, can more job opportunities be created. Our nation’s income and resources therefore must be spent towards this goal.

We must all, together, have a plan to correct this current financial system. This is not an easy decision. For our region, it is a consequential decision, between two choices, forward and backward. This issue, for the sake of a prosperous future, is important for our region, and cannot be used as a tool for rivalry or be politicised.

Fellow citizens,

This difficult situation which experts predict may continue for some time requires us all to help to reduce the burden on low-income families. I assure you that this government, since the start of this crisis, has put in place a plan for medicine and food security. In accordance with this plan, public and private depots, at least until the end of the year, have been filled with food and medicine, and there will be no shortage of either in the markets of the Kurdistan Region. Moreover, trade in medicine and food continues.

In accordance with our plan, and besides the monthly food rations, the government will soon start to distribute food directly among low-income families.

We in the Kurdistan Region took early measures with social distancing to counter the coronavirus. Protecting ourselves is the best response. I thank you all for complying with the measures. But in recent days compliance has fallen.

We appreciate the burden on you and your families, but we must all understand that this disease continues to be a threat around the world.

The public safety measures for everyone – such as wearing face masks in public and regularly washing hands and avoiding large public gatherings – must continue.

Those who do not follow these measures are actively risking the lives, not just of themselves, but those of their families and fellow citizens.

According to the World Health Organisation and others, the Kurdistan Regional Government social distancing and public safety measures have been very successful. Yet unfortunately there are individuals who downplay the importance of those efforts.

Despite all the pressure and the ongoing financial crisis, the government’s response to the coronavirus has emerged as a successful example of containing the spread of the disease.

I assure you, our citizens, that the government cares first and foremost about your safety and well-being. I urge you not to be deceived by false and unrealistic propaganda. We listen to your criticisms and your comments, and we take into account legitimate and realistic demands. We also understand them. But all of us must also have a comprehensive understanding of the difficult situation we find ourselves in.

I thank you for your resilience and for your sacrifice.

I am certain that with your help we will get through this difficult chapter, and that Kurdistan will move forward together toward prosperity. In that moment, I am certain that many will emerge to claim the success and achievements.

In closing, I wish you all again a happy Eid. And I urge you all to continue to comply with the vital public health measures. This is a national, religious and human duty.

I wish you all continued health and safety.

The video of the speech 

 

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President Nechirvan Barzani’s statement on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, May 23, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani issued a congratulatory message as Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan beginning on Sunday. Below is the message:

As we begin to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr, I extend my warmest greetings to the families of our fallen martyrs, Peshmerga heroes and Muslims in Kurdistan, Iraq and around the world. I hope that the arrival of this celebration encourages everyone further towards unity, tolerance, harmony and mutual respect. I also hope this celebration will bring about prosperity and puts an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises.

We celebrate Eid al-Fitr at a time when the Kurdistan Region, similar to other countries across the region and the world, is faced with the threat of the further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and its wide-ranging impacts. The economic consequences of this pandemic have been large-scale, both in our country and around the world. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we in the Kurdistan Region continue to stay united and work together to confront this challenging situation and overcome the current hardships. Similar to past crises, it is only through joint efforts, consensus and cooperation among all of us that we can come out of the current difficulties as victors.

On this occasion, we reiterate that the Kurdistan Region Presidency will remain a unifying factor for all the political groups and communities in Kurdistan. It will work, represent and serve all fellow citizens in Kurdistan regardless of party and political affiliations or ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Happy Eid al-Fitr to everyone. I wish everyone good health and urge my fellow citizens to follow the protective measures against the pandemic.

May God protect Kurdistan, our people and everyone around the world.

Nechirvan Barzani
Kurdistan Region President

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Prime Minister Masrour Barzani meets investment board, reiterates commitment to diverse economy

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the High Council for Investment to discuss current economic situation and the need to further develop investment in the Kurdistan Region.

In the meeting attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and other cabinet members, Prime Minister Barzani stressed that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is working to build a stronger economy.

The Prime Minister also said the government will further develop agriculture, industry and tourism sectors to diversify the economy. In that regard, the meeting also covered amendments to the investment law expected to be submitted to the cabinet for approval.

The meeting stressed that investment projects should serve the public needs and interest.

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President Nechirvan Barzani reiterates support for rights of ethnic and religious communities

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, May 17, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with the representatives of ethnic and religious groups who have members in the Kurdistan Parliament and who are participating in the Kurdistan Regional Government.

At the meeting, the delegates shared their views on the current state of affairs in the Kurdistan Region and discussed the role and position of the ethnic and religious communities in the Region’s political and administrative affairs. The representatives also reiterated the importance of safeguarding their communities’ rights and fair representation in the Kurdistan Region’s public institutions and administrative bodies.

The representatives expressed appreciation to the Kurdistan Region Presidency, which has worked to bring all groups and communities together and encouraged tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among communities in the country.

The delegates also touched upon a number of issues that their respective communities encounter while engaged in administrative and political activities. They spoke about shortcomings in public services in some areas and urged the Kurdistan Region Presidency to help offset these shortcomings.

President Nechirvan Barzani stressed the importance of safeguarding unity, tolerance and mutual respect and pledged full support for the rights of all communities in the Kurdistan Region in its future constitution. The president said that the Kurdistan Region takes pride in being a safe and stable home to all its communities and stressed that the rich cultural, ethnic and religious mosaic of the Kurdistan Region must be enhanced and protected.

President Nechirvan Barzani said that the Kurdistan Region is passing through a period, which calls for maximum cooperation and solidarity among all political parties and communities. The president stressed that political stability, unity and tolerance must be a priority for all groups and parties in the country in order to overcome the current hardships facing the Region. For this purpose, the Kurdistan Region Presidency will continue to work with the KRG, the Kurdistan Parliament and all the Region’s relevant institutions, political parties and groups, the president emphasized.

The president reiterated his and Kurdistan Region Presidency’s full support for all ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan Region and emphasized that they are ancient components and citizens of the Kurdistan Region. The president added that the freedoms of all communities in Kurdistan must be recognized and safeguarded and that these communities must not be dragged into internal political disputes. The president concluded that any form of pressure against the ethnic and religious communities in the Kurdistan Region will not be accepted.

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Prime Minister Barzani chairs cabinet meeting, calls for constitutional solution to problems with Baghdad

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – Prime Minister Masrour Barzani chaired a cabinet meeting in Erbil on Wednesday to discuss economic conditions in the Kurdistan Region and outstanding problems with the federal government.

In the meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, the Prime Minister wished success to the new Iraqi cabinet, and stressed the need for a constitutional solution to ongoing issues between Erbil and Baghdad.

The cabinet discussed proposed draft bills covering the selling and renting of public properties, investment, and patients’ rights. Relevant departments in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were assigned to prepare final drafts for parliament.

Prime Minister Barzani said the Kurdistan Region is going through difficult economic times due to falling oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and must make adjustments due to limited financial resources.

He called for a review of the economy in light of the regional financial downturn, and underlined the importance of continuing to implement the Reform Law (2020).

The Prime Minister said the KRG will do its best to pay public sector salaries, and reiterated his commitment to continue providing public services and strengthening the region’s infrastructure.

During the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Talabani provided an update on recent discussions with federal authorities on budgetary issues and oil exports. He said dialogue with Baghdad will continue to reach a deal on outstanding problems.

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President Nechirvan Barzani meets with President Barham Salih

Sulaimaniya, Kurdistan Region, May 11, 2020

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with Iraq’s President Dr. Barham Salih in Slemani on Monday to discuss the current political situation in the country following the formation of the new Iraqi government. The two presidents underlined the necessity to find sustainable solutions to Iraq’s current crises.

The latest political developments in the country were also discussed in the meeting as both presidents reiterated the need to resolve the current disputes. Restoring peace and stability in Iraq and efforts to ease the economic hardships of households across the country, including in the Kurdistan Region, were also highlighted.

Both presidents appreciated the formation of the new Iraqi cabinet led by Prime Minister Mustafa Al- Kadhimi and expressed support for Iraq’s new federal government. The two sides also pledged full cooperation and support to the federal government in order to end the deadlocks and assist families across the country to maintain better health conditions and sustainable livelihoods.

The two presidents also said that support and cooperation were needed to end the remnants of terrorist groups and to ensure security in all of Iraq. Resolving the pending issues between Baghdad and Kurdistan Region, in accordance with the constitution, in particular the issue of budget and salaries of the employees of Kurdistan Region were also highlighted in the meeting.

President Nechirvan Barzani and President Barham Salih stressed the importance of unity and de-escalation of tensions in Iraq while directing all national efforts to ensure stability, economic recovery and deep-seated reforms. Both sides underlined that internal disputes must be sidelined in favor of serving the public and supporting their demands.

Preserving unity and consensus in the Kurdistan Region were also highlighted as the two presidents encouraged all political groups in Kurdistan to put the differences aside and ease tensions in the country. Assisting fellow citizens through the current economic hardships and strengthening political stability and security must be the priority of all groups, the two presidents emphasized.