Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Parliamentary Speaker Yousif Muhammed Sadiq has called for a stronger Arab role in Iraqi Kurdistan, stressing that this will help the semi-autonomous region confront the numerous challenges it is facing, not least the advancing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“The reality of the Arab role, compared to other countries, is that it is weak. We hope it will develop in the future,” Sadiq said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
The senior Kurdish official emphasized the friendly ties with Arab countries, affirming that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is actively seeking to deepen and strengthen cooperation with the Arab world. “Therefore, we want to maintain our ancient friendship with the Arab world and consolidate and develop this relationship,” he added.
He said he hoped Arabs would take up a more active role in “helping [Iraqi Kurdistan] to face the events taking place in the region.”
Sadiq, who is a member of the Kurdish Gorran (Movement for Change) which came second in the April parliamentary elections, said that Iraqi Kurdistan had received messages of support from across the world for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces’ role in repelling ISIS fighters. He added that the role played by Kurdish military and security forces in the fight against the extremist group had helped Erbil emerge as a “key regional player.”
Explaining the recent surge in the international community’s support for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Sadiq told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The expanding presence of terrorist groups represent a major threat to international security and stability. The Kurdistan region’s becoming a safe haven for Iraqis from across the spectrum has prompted the international community to provide assistance to confront terrorism.”
But the Kurdish official did not hide the fact that the continuous flow of refugees into the region has placed a heavy financial burden on an economy already squeezed by an eight-month blockade on oil exports imposed by the Baghdad government.
He said: “The Kurdistan region is now going through a critical situation. On the one hand, the region is facing a war of terror along its borders, particularly in the disputed areas . . . In addition to this, there is the financial crisis due to the budget dispute with Baghdad.”
The budget cuts “have harmed all areas of life in the region, particularly service projects,” Sadiq said.
“The Kurdistan region has entered a long-term war, in terms of time frame and geographic scope. This is not to mention the burden represented by the presence of a large numbers of refugees in the region . . . Therefore, the region is in need of more aid from the international community and the world,” he said.