Prime Minister Barzani’s speech at the fourth annual Sulaimani Forum

The fourth annual Sulaimani Forum, held by the American University of Sulaimani, was opened today in the presence of Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani, a number of Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi Fedral Government ministers and members of Parliament, ambassadors and foreign missions representatives in Baghdad and Erbil, and a number of distinguished scholars, analysts and experts.

In his speech, Prime Minister Barzani explained the current situation in Kurdistan Region, focusing on the internal political conditions, the war against ISIS, the economic crisis and Kurdistan Region’s relations with Baghdad.

Following is the text of the speech:

Ladies and gentlemen,
Esteemed guests,

I, and on behalf of Mr. Qubad Talabani, welcome you all to the city of Sulaimani, the cultural capital of the Kurdistan Region. I welcome you to the Sulimani Forum that has been successfully held by the American University of Sulaimani, annually. I applaud my dear brother Mr. Barham Salih and administrators of the American University for organizing this important forum to discuss and analyze the situation in the Middle East at the time of ISIS.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathered here on one of our people’s tragic days and that is the 28th anniversary of the chemical gas attack on Halabja. On this day we pay tribute to the martyrs of Halabja and all the martyrs of Kurdistan. On this sad occasion and as honor to the blood of our martyrs it is very important that we resolve our internal disputes through dialogue as soon as we can. It is not important for us to win against each other, but it matters that we get together and win against ISIS and terrorism for we still have a long war ahead of us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is unfortunate that the desire to break and impose one’s will on another brought the situation in the Kurdistan Region from a unique political integrity to an undesirable point as a result of which the people and institutions have suffered greatly. We did our best to prevent this situation from happening, but unfortunately between the bad and the worse the worse happened.

We were in the midst of a terrible war. Kurdistan needed to preserve its domestic stability by all means, so that our country and the war front do not break. That is also exactly what our coalition partners told the people of Kurdistan.

The President of the Kurdistan Region took all the necessary legal steps for the election of a new president on time, but the High Independent Election Commission announced that it was unable to hold an election. The Kurdistan Advisory Council also extended the president’s term as a necessity to the situation in Kurdistan. In addition, we offered a new proposal to amend the powers of the president of the Kurdistan Region in order to maintain the political unity at this delicate juncture.

But unfortunately, the efforts to bring down a president who was at the front-line, the efforts to impose wills, parliament’s push to further complicate the situation instead of resolving them and turning the parliament into a center of manipulation at that sensitive moment, caused people to suffer for their own legitimate institutions. The entire process was run through provocation despite all the efforts encouraging patience and guidance form our coalition partners for an agreement and preservation of our political and domestic stability.

Internal political issues come up in every country, but what is important is for the will for a resolution to be there. And it is now time for all parties in Kurdistan to show that will, and sit together to solve all the issues and correct the shortcomings and re-activate the parliament in a way that will regain the trust and peace of the people of Kurdistan.

The negotiations between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan are a glimmer of hope in this regard. We hope negotiations and talks resume in a serious manner between all parties with the aim of a solution for all the issues.

What is also pleasing is that there is a political will that has started with great popular support for reform which is an essential help to the government and a healthy governance in Kurdistan. And we in the government have started taking important steps towards reform and transparency, and will continue that long-term process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We thank all the people of Kurdistan in general and every single civil servant in particular for their perseverance and patience. We know this is a severe crisis and has affected the livelihood of every household, therefore their patience is worthy of honor.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is trying every avenue to overcome this crisis, and rest assured that this crisis will pass and people’s lives will improve again and reconstruction and progress will resume. God has granted the people of Kurdistan a fertile land, abundant natural resources and a strong will. For that we can surmount all crises.

Dear guests,

ISIS brought a war and heartbreaking tragedies to Kurdistan and the region, and the savagery and threat of that organization reached many parts of the world in a short period of time. The savagery was especially severe in Kurdistan with the massacre of the Yezidi Kurds and the abduction of our Kurdish Yezidi mothers and sisters, the destruction of Jalawla, Kobani and Sinjar. Among all of its savagery, the ISIS abduction of our Yezidi women and girls was the most horrific to us. Though we have so far been able to free two thousand four hundred twenty six of our women, girls and children, many more are still sadly held hostage by ISIS.

Our friends and allies, chief among them the United States, have supported the people of Kurdistan especially with air strikes for which we are grateful. But the real threat has been faced off by the Peshmerga on the ground. With the Peshmerga blood and sacrifice this threat has been stopped from spreading further to the region and the world.

As a national force the Peshmerga has distanced itself from political dispute throughout its war with ISIS. It has been a defender of humanity and played a key role in protecting all ethnic and religious groups in the region. The Peshmerga is the only force that has the trust of all people in the region and the world. And it is for the same reason that Arab, Christian, Turkmen, Bahai and Mandaean refugees seek shelter in areas under Peshmerga and KRG control. On the one hand it is a pride for the people of Kurdistan to be consistently defending the human values and on the other, it obliges the allied countries to try to professionalize the Peshmerga forces, and help it progress and grow stronger. This is more crucial at a time that an offensive on Mosul is in the making, and the Peshmerga is the force that the people of the region fully trust and believe in the success and stability of any operation the Peshmerga is part of.

The world is now doing research on how to prevent the rise of groups like ISIS in Iraq and other places once ISIS has been defeated. But unfortunately, policies pursued and practiced in the surrounding areas of Kurdistan, the growing sectarian strife, show that the emergence of groups such as ISIS and even more savage is not unlikely. Therefore it is important that Peshmerga’s role in protecting regional and global security is valued.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As a result of the events in Syria followed by the fight against ISIS, apart from the enormous war costs, the burden of 1.8 million refugees was thrown upon the Kurdistan Region. On top of that, the Iraqi government continued to withheld the budget of Kurdistan Region’s civil servants and Peshmerga forces, who are according to the Iraqi constitution part of Iraq’s own national forces. The coalition partners and international community did not do anything either to make Iraq commit to its obligations towards the Kurdistan Region, in particular the Peshmerga forces.

In the meantime, the decline in oil prices, depriving the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s cash reserves and international loans, made the economic crisis on the people of Kurdistan ever more harsh. It is similarly unfortunate that in this time of crisis no country has given the Kurdistan Region any financial support. At a time when Kurdistan has turned into the forefront of the war against terrorism and home to its refugees, the people of Kurdistan expected the world to help their country. But unfortunately that has not happened yet. But we stress once again to the whole world that the people and Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan need your support in this war and economic crisis.

Esteemed guests,

The people of Kurdistan and our friends testify to the fact that the Kurdistan Regional Government has in the last several years done all it could and traveled to Baghdad numerous times with initiatives and gestures of goodwill to solve the disputes with Baghdad, but unfortunately our efforts bore no result.

We would have loved for Baghdad to solve its disputes with the Kurdistan Regional Government with deeds, but in reality the federal government is evading more and more its obligations as a state towards the Kurdistan Region. After we showed all willingness for a practical agreement with Baghdad to no avail, all parties and the people of Kurdistan have lost hope in the Iraqi government.

And now, before all the respectable Iraqi officials and leaders present here today, we say it again that we want an agreement with Baghdad.

We have to be realistic and know the reality of Iraq’s ethnic and religious make-up. And know as well Iraq’s geographical realty before we go ahead and decide on a new model of governance for Iraq. Previous formulas of coexistence all failed. But we are still ready to negotiate and agree on a new model of governance and administration that would please the whole region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Kurdistan Region has become a victim of regional hostilities. The terror and violence facing Kurdistan today has from outside its borders, and it is the byproduct of the sectarian and international strife in the region. But with the commitment and sacrifice of its people this threat has been stopped at the gates of Kurdistan and the world.

Now and likewise in the future Kurdistan is in an important position and can play a vital role in protecting the regional and global security. Therefore, any redesign of the region will not succeed without the participation of the Kurdish people and taking into account their interests. Because the Kurdistan Region is a central pillar for the region’s stability.

In conclusion, I wish the Sulaimani Forum all success, and hope that the youth of the American University in Sulaimani have an effective participation in the discussions and dialogue with politicians and experts in all panels.

Once again, I welcome you all and wish you an enjoyable time in Kurdistan’s spring season.

Thank you,

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