Keynote speaker of the meeting was Falah Mustafa, Head of Foreign Affairs Department of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan, introduced by Franco Frattini, former Italian Foreign Minister and President of SIOI; and by the opening remarks of Alessandro Politi, a Political Analyst and SIOI Professor. Rezan Kader, High Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Italy also attended the conference delivering the conclusions after Minister Mustafa’s lecture.
The Conference focused on Kurdistan’s geostrategic role, with a particular attention to the actual scenario. Frattini, in his opening speech, stressed that “many of the Syrians refugees are Kurds and that, in this period of political crisis, many of them are flowing back to Kurdistan”. Then, he highlighted that the energetic security is a priority for the whole World, and that Kurdistan is one of the keys.
Prof. Politi, during his remarks, added that “the current situation in Kurdistan has very deep roots, referring to the failures of 1998, of 1991 and of 2003, that brought Kurdistan to civil war and loss of sovereignty; only after 2008 the situation began to improve”. He believes that “Kurdistan can now play a role of mediator across the borders, among entities such as Turkey, Syria and Iran”. Minister Falah Mustafa began his lecture addressing the gap between the theories of international relations and the real facts. Kurds are about forty million people scattered into four countries: Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. They had a “promised State” but the “super powers”, he said, betrayed this agreement.
According to Mustafa, “International Community has not dealt the two Gulf wars with particular attention to human rights and they have not beaten enough against oppression, by binding it to an internal matter for the country”. “In Iraq there are issues related to injustice and inequality”, for this reason it is difficult to build a real democratic and pluralist Federal State. The real problem, according to Mustafa, is that “the mentality of Baghdad has not changed. Baghdad reports still everything toward the centre, including issues related to oil. Saddam has pursued an economic and psychological war, in addition to a civil one”.
It has also been difficult to build a democracy in the past of Kurdistan because it was located in an area devoid of airports and of access to the sea: the only force that could count was the political leadership. However, the Twin Towers’ terroristic attack in 2001 changed the approach in the Iraq area, and in 2003 USA troops liberated northern front from the Regime that oppressed Kurdistan. After this period, the Kurdistan Regional Government went to Baghdad for a new beginning. According to Minister Mustafa, “Kurdistan Region has many resources, including oil and gas, and they have to be used for the people not to destroy them, “oil and gas belong to all citizens of Iraq”, he said. There were also many problems between Sunnis and Shiites in the Iraqi elections of 2010, and the Kurds have intervened to soften the disagreements. It seems that the next elections of April 2014 are an opportunity for the future of Iraq. For this reason it is important to build a common identity.
Concerning foreign affairs, KRG wants to have good relations with neighbouring countries: Turkey, NATO member, is an important ally, but it is necessary that Turkey has good relations with Iran, which must resolve the issues with the International Community from its point of view.
Minister Mustafa also afforded the matter of Syrian crisis that had a strong impact both on Iraq and Kurdistan. The Kurds know what be a refugee means, so now they want to help Syrians ones. The International Community could have helped more Syria but in Mustafa’s opinion it was unprepared. Despite this, some countries, such as Italy, Hungary and Britain have contributed to help Syrian population. Kurdistan wants Syria to start a democratic process, with or without Bashar al-Assad. All Kurds should be united and this must be a wish for Syria too.
Falah Mustafa concluded by pointing out that there are currently twenty-seven countries which have Kurdish representatives, like Italy, UK, Germany, France, Poland, and within the next year the number will be expanded to countries such as Kuwait and China.Rezan Kader, concluding, recognized the opportunity to address the issue of democracy and stability in Kurdistan, showing her satisfaction for the Memorandum of Understanding that will be concluded with SIOI to expand diplomacy in Kurdistan: another important step for the democratic process.
Minister Mustafa proved very helpful and open to dialogue by providing a space for some questions even after the end of the Conference.
How do you define the status and the role of the Iraqi Kurdistan in the post-Saddam era? What are the links with the Iraqi State, considering the KRG political and institutional structures?
Minister Mustafa answered that, in the past, Kurds have suffered a lot. Now they want to be part of the themes like security, economy and democracy. They need to be part of Baghdad too, to believe in the same values. They have a Constitution, that they have voted, and there is the need to implement the basis of the Constitution. Mustafa thinks that Kurdistan is now, unlike past, a player in the Middle East. For this reason they are demanding for equal justice, economic growth and peace processes, also with Turkey and anybody who can benefit from that, like Iran and Syria. Kurdistan is a Region with its territory, its history, its culture, its civilization, its political wage and the political force to struggle for the values they believe in.
Could you please tell me about Iraqi Kurdistan connections with Western partners and others? Do you have any preferential agreement with them? Which are the International Organizations that play a more virtuous role in the KRG area?
Minister Mustafa answered that after a long isolation period, they began, since 1991, to reach out the International Community to build relations but it wasn’t easy. They have had “friends”, like in the occasion of the oil-for-food programme, that was introduced with UN Resolution n.986 (1995), but the problem was that they were landlocked. It wasn’t easy for the people who wanted to reach Kurdistan, some countries didn’t want to provide Visa or access. After 2003 the situation changed, Kurdistan benefited from the era of building a new Federal Iraq. They began to have international relations with all the countries that had connections with Iraq and with many others that now host Kurdish representatives.
He believes that the International Community is interested on Kurdistan because they both stand for common values like: human rights, rule of law, democracy, women empowerment and so on. He also said that they have students for local capacity programme and that they send every year students to be educated in the Western universities because they believe in capacity building. To conclude, Mustafa said that they want to open up and to lose definitely the isolation of the past.