Prime Minister Barzani receives German parliamentary delegation

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq ( - Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani yesterday met Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Deputy Head of the Social Democrat Party in the German Parliament and his accompanying delegation.

Mr. Schäfer-Gümbel reaffirmed his country’s support to the Kurdistan Region in military, humanitarian and economic areas to help overcome the challenges facing the Region, and noted his party’s role in offering military aid for Peshmerga forces in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist organization, ISIS.

The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the German public, government and parliament for their ongoing support to the Kurdistan Region, and praised Germany’s role in sending military support, treating wounded Peshmergas and ISIS victims, particularly the Yezidi Kurds.

Prime Minister Barzani gave an overview of the current situation in the region, including the fight against terrorism and other challenges, particularly the financial crisis gripping the Kurdistan Region, stating that assistance from the international community is needed to overcome them, particularly the expertise and skills to implement reforms.

The Prime Minister also discussed the formation of a committee in charge of resolving the recent political issues, which affected the Parliament and Government. He expressed his hope that all political sides will reach agreement.


Prime Minister Barzani emphasises national unity at first cabinet meeting

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani chaired the eighth cabinet’s first meeting yesterday, highlighting the importance of national unity and a strong, fair, effective cabinet.

Opening comments

Prime Minister Barzani welcomed the ministers and wished them success. He said, “It is true that the government formation process took a long time. But it was successful; we were able to form a government of national unity comprised of all the winning political blocs. This was an important step and a top priority for the Kurdistan Region, and recent developments have demonstrated the importance of this achievement. Unity and harmony of the different forces in the Kurdistan Region are essential as we handle the Region’s next stages.”

The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of all political components governing together in genuine partnership and in the decision-making process. He said that the cabinet would work together in order to properly carry out the government’s duties.

Prime Minister Barzani stressed the need to better institutionalize government bodies to ensure a more effective and transparent government. He said, “I am confident in our capabilities to complete large-scale projects and tall buildings, but without a solid foundation for the government we cannot achieve success.”

Addressing challenges

In examining challenges facing the cabinet, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the previous cabinet could have operated with a better sense of teamwork. He stated that ministries and ministers should work more together closely in the eighth cabinet, also urging ministers to improve management and coordination in their own ministries, as strong management facilitates greater achievement.

Prime Minister Barzani discussed the importance of fairness in the distribution of salaries. He stated that policies designed to appease citizens over the last several years have had a negative impact on the issue of government salaries, adding that a number of laws must be amended and ministerial structures must be modernised. He also highlighted the important role of the Kurdistan Parliament to monitor this process, asking ministers to cooperate fully with the Parliament and its committees and to consider this matter diligently.

The Prime Minister also urged ministers to invest time in field visits throughout Kurdistan and to meet with local authorities in order to remain engaged and aware of obstacles and to identify legitimate needs. He explained that this practice was adopted successfully in the seventh cabinet.

Current priorities

The Prime Minister stressed the importance of reviewing legislation and administrative structures in each ministry to foster successful output and cooperation within and among ministries. He added that at present the primary priorities of the cabinet are security and the provision of electricity and services to the people of the Region.

The Minister of Peshmerga Affairs presented a detailed report regarding the current military situation in the Region and the ministry’s preparations to defend against terrorists and to protect the Kurdistan Region and the areas of Kurdistan beyond KRG administration. The Minister of Interior also discussed security developments.

Members of the cabinet exchanged views, all agreeing that the KRG policy priority is to protect the people and the land of the Kurdistan Region, including areas of Kurdistan beyond KRG administration, and for the KRG to adopt a defensive posture and not engage in military confrontation unless necessary.

The cabinet formed a committee to make logistical needs available under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Reconstruction and Housing, the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism, and the Ministry of Health.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani stated that the first meeting of the new cabinet was positive. He said, “We can succeed and we will provide the people of Kurdistan with the best services if we maintain unity in our positions and attitudes.”


Prime Minister Barzani outlines priorities at inauguration of eighth cabinet

The eighth cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government was announced at a special session of the Kurdistan Parliament held on 18 June 2014. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, and all cabinet ministers were sworn into office.

In a speech outlining the programme of the eighth cabinet, Prime Minister Barzani stated that the new cabinet has been announced during a critical point in time. He emphasised that in 2003, the people of Kurdistan needed to act with one voice and work together in order to protect and preserve the achievements and interests of the Kurdistan Region. He noted the need to have the same strategic posture at this difficult period for Iraq in order to not squander any achievements that have been made and to ensure the safety and security of those living in the Kurdistan Region and in parts of Kurdistan outsidenb_parliament_gov_2__2014_06_18_h18m4s30__MZ of KRG administration. For this reason the decision constitutes a historic responsibility for the people of Kurdistan.

The Prime Minister also said that the eighth cabinet is a broad-based government, reflecting the aspirations of the political forces in the Kurdistan Region. Achieving this task required patience during the process of forming such a cabinet in order to construct a real partnership that would respond to the current needs of the people and the political constituencies of the Kurdistan Region.

Prime Minister Barzani thanked the people of the Kurdistan Region for their patience during the government formation process, especially after Iraq’s federal government cut the salaries of KRG employees. He stressed that this unjust and unconstitutional decision has made the lives of the people in the Region more difficult and has also had a negative impact on Kurdistan’s economy and investment. He expressed his sorrow and sadness for the trouble that this situation has caused for the people of Kurdistan. However, he stated that in the coming years the resistance and fortitude of the people of the Kurdistan Region would usher in a new stage in which injustice would be confronted. This would help to settle these issues, and the Kurdistan Region would not face political or financial crises such as this again.

The Prime Minister discussed the plans of the new cabinet, highlighting the fact that all efforts will be made to incorporate a hard-working and transparent government based on the principles of citizenship, separation of powers, peace and social justice, human rights and particularly the rights of women and children, the rule of law and justice, increased prosperity, genuine reform, protection of the Kurdistan Region’s environment, and the identification of appropriate solutions to combat corruption in all of its forms in KRG institutions.

He also explained that citizenship would become the principle, the value, and the primary measurement of government activities. The cabinet will work to provide equal opportunities for all inhabitants of Kurdistan regardless of their political, ethnic, or religious affiliation. In addition, based on the mechanism of the rule of law and institutionalization, the new cabinet will work to ensure that institutions and government duties, authorities, and responsibilities are separate from the activities and duties of political parties.

Prime Minister Barzani reiterated that the eighth cabinet is a coalition government and that its components are genuine partners in this government. This includes at the level of implementing government duties, decision-making, and responsibility for all decisions. This government belongs to everyone in Kurdistan and works for citizens’ prosperity and interests and to provide them with services.

He also indicated that those serving in the cabinet would be committed and qualified to handle the government’s economic, financial, and administrative responsibilities. Members of the government will all be responsible for its decisions, he said, and no side will be an obstacle in implementing the government’s decisions. The different parties that come together to form this cabinet will govern the Region based on the votes and confidence the people have entrusted to it. The government will work resolutely to deliver on the promises made to the people and will serve them.

Prime Minister Barzani pointed out that the participation of various political parties in the coalition government would help to reinforce the foundations of democracy and peaceful coexistence, respecting differences in views, freedom of the press, and governing and working together under the same umbrella. This will bring the tolerance of the people of Kurdistan to a new stage in the Region’s political history.

He also stressed that the government should take significant steps in order to help realize the dreams of past generations: bringing about a self-governing, stable and secure Kurdistan. This is why the government will responsibly identify the necessary steps to be taken for the future.

Regarding the problems between Baghdad and Erbil, Prime Minister Barzani underlined that one of the duties of the new cabinet will be to adopt a reconciliatory policy to settle the unresolved issues and the Region’s future with Iraq’s federal government. This includes, especially, the issue of the areas of Kurdistan outside KRG administration and the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi federal constitution. He stressed that together, in coordination with the Region’s presidency, the parliament, and in cooperation with political parties, urgent steps would be taken to establish a negotiation council for political agreement that reflects the will of the people of Kurdistan.

The Prime Minister stated that the eighth cabinet would create a suitable environment to ensure that the parliament can properly monitor the government’s activities. Meanwhile, he sought the trust and support of the parliament so that the government and the parliament work together to serve the people of the Kurdistan Region. To this end, the government will be in constant communication with the parliament and its chairmanship council.

He also pointed out that, as Kurdistan is a relative rich Region, the current objective is to achieve economic independence, continuous growth, and diversification of income sources – thus avoiding reliance on natural resources revenues alone. He said that the government will work to develop various sectors, including agriculture, industry, trade, services, and would strive to reduce the difference in living conditions between towns in the countryside and cities.

Prime Minister Barzani explained that the government will work to improve major water services, electricity, and road networks to meet the clear economic growth and increased standard of living in Kurdistan. The KRG would also promote local and foreign investment by utilizing the Region’s capabilities, materials, and human resources. This requires active work to implement decentralization, separation of powers, and reach an agreement to amend the laws.

The Prime Minister stated that the government will pay special attention to the sectors of industry and tourism and will support the private sector to play its role in reconstruction and propelling the economic growth of Kurdistan. The government will improve the investment framework in Kurdistan in a way to meet the social and economic development for the next stage of the Region. He indicated that the eighth cabinet will continue to reform the education and higher education systems by providing the needed facilities, improving academic capacity, and developing scientific research and vocational studies to create a qualified and capable workforce for the job market. Reducing the rate of illiteracy in the Region will also be a priority.

Regarding the health sector, Prime Minister Barzani explained that the new cabinet will work to adopt a more modern health system and separate public and private sector medical services.

He said that the eighth cabinet will continue to pay attention to the lives and living conditions of the families of martyrs, victims of the Anfal campaign, chemical weapons attacks, and political prisoners.

The new cabinet will reframe its programme regarding the housing sector in a modern way and will work to solve housing issues, especially for low-income families.

The Prime Minister told the parliament that all should be proud of the security and stability that prevail in Kurdistan, despite its location in the heart of an area torn by violence, war, terror, and repression. The situation in Kurdistan has been enabled by the efforts, awareness, and conscientious efforts of the Peshmerga, police, and security forces who work for all the people of Kurdistan. Because of this, the KRG strives to improve the lives and living conditions of the Region’s armed forces and enhance their abilities and skills. Strengthening the sense of national loyalty to the armed forces will be an important task of this government.

The eighth cabinet will work to review and regulate the pension and salary system to benefit people in a fair way. It will work to establish the Kurdistan Fund for Oil Income and the Region’s Petroleum Company, as stipulated by Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law number 22 of 2007.

The Prime Minister outlined the cabinet’s plan to develop, support, and encourage the local private sector and provide suitable conditions for foreign companies and investors in order to create job opportunities and reduce the rate of unemployment. This refers particularly to youth and graduates of institutes and universities. The government will adopt modern operational employment policies and strive to eliminate manipulation in the private market, companies, and investment.

The Prime Minister explained that this is the general overview of the coalition government’s action plan, which will form the basis of the policies and projects of the government, and will be reflected in the work and programmes of the ministries.

Prime Minister Barzani concluded by emphasizing that the adoption and the success of the government’s programme will be a success for the resilient people of Kurdistan – people who have suffered for a long time. Providing social and economic services is an honour for the government. The people of Kurdistan deserve a brighter future; they deserve freedom, liberty, and a more robust democracy. With the backing of security, Peshmerga, police forces, and the people, he said that the Region could achieve better results and make greater dreams come true.

Please click here for a list of KRG ministries and departments


Nechirvan Barzani and Qubad Talabani tasked to form 8th Cabinet

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has signed an order tasking Prime Minister designate Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister designate Qubad Talabani to form the eighth Cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Prime Minister Barzani will continue in his role in the same capacity, while Minister Talabani will move from his current role as Head of the KRG Department of Coordination and Follow-up to Deputy Prime Minister.

According to Kurdistan’s laws, the cabinet must be formed within 30 days of the issuance of the President’s order. This decision signals the final step in the government formation process, and paves the way for an eighth cabinet coalition to include a number of political parties.


Prime Minister Barzani addresses Kurdistan Parliament

The Prime Minister yesterday addressed the Kurdistan Parliament at length regarding the Region’s financial situation, disputes with Baghdad, natural resources, and other matters. An excerpt of his address is below:

“The Kurdistan Region’s policy from the beginning has been based upon solving outstanding issues with Baghdad. We want to find a solution and reach an agreement. Baghdad’s policies are, however, not reasonable. We have recently made several visits to Baghdad, and since 2005 we have made every effort to reach an agreement regarding budget distribution, but we have not yet reached a resolution…

Regarding oil, we have just begun exporting. This step has been taken after two years of negotiation with Turkey in which an agreement has been signed that permits the Kurdistan Region to export its oil. We are thankful to our Turkish counterparts for reaching such an agreement and for implementing it to the fullest…

Regarding the federal budget, we had only been receiving 10% instead of the 17% to which the Kurdistan Region is entitled. We have continuously taken initiatives to solve these financial problems, and have made several visits to Baghdad…

We are abiding by the Article in Iraq’s Constitution which states that the oil and gas are owned by all the people of Iraq. We are ready to cooperate with Baghdad and SOMO regarding the export of oil, including monitoring volumes so that they know precisely how much oil is being exported. We have suggested working with SOMO in both the tendering process, the selling process and in order to ensure transparency. We will work together in this, but we will not cede control to SOMO…

As for their request for transparency, we are open to include SOMO in every stage of the process and whatever they request under the condition of our receipt of 17% of the budget share. Again, what we are receiving is only 10%. What the KRG is offering in terms of delivery to its citizens differs [from the rest of Iraq]; therefore, today our people have higher expectation from their government and this is their right…

America is aware of the details of the outstanding issues between our Region and Baghdad. In fact, I believe that the American policy reflects the fact that the United States encourages both parties to reach an agreement that is suitable for both Baghdad and Erbil. This is our expectations of America – that they remain neutral. And this how they have acted so far…

According to Iraq’s budget law, the Federal Iraqi Government was supposed to provide the budget on a monthly basis to all of Iraq’s provinces and to the Kurdistan Region. From the start of this year until today, the Federal Government of Iraq has sent money to all of Iraq’s provinces except for the Kurdistan Region. From the beginning of the year, Iraq has sent only one trillion dinar to the Kurdistan Region. We would like to thank those local companies who have provided us with loans. In addition, we have borrowed from some foreign banks, and we also thank them. The government in Baghdad is supposed to have sent six trillion additional dinar which they have not and are not willing to provide to the Kurdistan Region…

Today I would like to say that the policy of the Kurdistan Region Government is to never take a step backwards. We want to reach resolutions with Baghdad through dialogue, but if we do not arrive at any resolutions then we have other alternatives and we will take them. We will not stop here. Why have we started selling oil? This is so that Baghdad understands full well that we are able to do this. In their eyes the KRG is overstepping its rights, and is unable to reach a point where we can openly sell our oil. But we have proved to them that we are capable of doing so…

The Kurdistan Region will soon be able to export 250,000 barrels per day. This economic independence is vital for the Kurdistan Region. We have achieved many gains through the policies that the KRG has implemented. Without the support and backing of you, the Members of Parliament, and the public, then undoubtedly we will fail. Baghdad cannot defeat us, but if we are not united in supporting these policies, then we will face crisis…

We will continue selling our oil through the Ceyhan port in Turkey to the international market, and we will try to reach an agreement with Baghdad. Our doors are always open for negotiations. Our process of selling oil has in every respect been in accordance with the policies and mechanisms also used by SOMO, without any shortcomings. We have been very careful to avoid causing any problems during the process and we will continue to pay strict attention to transparency, because the disputes are significant and are sensitive to both sides. We will work as hard as possible to ensure that our oil export process remains transparent. This is in order for the Kurdistan Region to avoid any liabilities or accusations. This process has supporters but also has its detractors. We do not want to face any problems with this issue…

It is with confidence that I tell you that we have started exporting oil and we believe we will reach a milestone at the end of the year, at which time we will able to export up to 500,000 barrels per day.”


KRG officials and businessmen discuss Kurdistan’s economy at MEED event

Today marked the conclusion of Kurdistan Projects, a three-day event organized by MEED which successfully attracted a large number of international companies pursuing investment and business opportunities.

Attendees heard from senior KRG officials, government experts, and leading private sector representatives on a wide range of topics. This is the third year MEED has hosted a conference in Erbil, with the Kurdistan Projects event highlighting four key themes: sustainable long-term growth, improvement of building standards, improvement of workforce capacity, and the latest economic developments of the Region.

KRG Spokesperson Minister Safeen Dizayee discussed the development of the Kurdistan Region over the last decade as well as current political issues. He said, “The KRG was dismayed by the decision taken in Baghdad to unilaterally and illegally cut the Kurdistan Region’s budget. Despite this, the KRG remains open to dialogue and partnership, but so far the dialogue has not been very fruitful.” In response to a question, the Minister pointed out that Baghdad owes the KRG more than $6 billion and has not received any budget at all for months. At the same time Minister Dizayee assured investors that despite outstanding disagreements with Baghdad, the investment climate in Kurdistan remains bright, businesses continue to thrive, and the KRG is fully committed to promoting private sector development.

Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa discussed the government’s vision for the future, emphasizing the importance of foreign direct investment. He said, “We firmly believe in our ability to develop a diversified and robust economy, focusing on essential improvements in health, education, infrastructure, and a dynamic private sector that can provide our citizens with job opportunities.”

Commenting on the conference, MEED Events Chairman Edmund O’Sullivan said, “We are delighted to work with the Kurdistan Regional Government and major private sector investors on this ground breaking conference set to reveal opportunities across key sectors, including: oil & gas, power, real estate, industry, hospitality & tourism, water & agriculture, and banking & finance.”

A number of speakers from various KRG ministries and boards also informed the audience of the government’s activities and plans in their areas of expertise. One such topic was food and water security, with various directors-general addressing the attendees and briefing them on infrastructure projects that are currently underway or are in the planning stage. Director-General Akram Rasul from the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources highlighted the importance of water security. He said, “Water is more important than oil and gold; there is no alternative to it. It is a security matter which the Kurdistan Regional Government takes very seriously.”


Pope Francis hails President Barzani’s role in protecting Iraqi Christians and Syrian refugees

Pope Francis commended Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and the citizens of the Region for their protection of Christians fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq and the safe haven provided for Syrian refugees.

In a formal meeting held at the Vatican, the Pope explained that he was aware of the tragic history of the Kurds and the current situation in Kurdistan. He lauded the KRG’s policy of tolerance and acceptance of religious and ethnic minorities and extended his wishes for prosperity and safety to the people of the Kurdistan Region.

President Barzani also highlighted the principle of tolerance and emphasized that it is an integral part of Kurdish culture, which is based upon peaceful coexistence. In Kurdistan people of different religions have made sacrifices together in the past and now live side by side in peace.

The President said that he views support for Syrian refugees and persecuted Iraqi Christians as a humanitarian obligation, and he explained that the people of the Kurdistan Region would do their best to provide protection and assistance. He added that citizens are entitled to live freely within their country, and it is unacceptable that Christians should have to flee their homes in Iraq because of violence or discrimination.