According to Falah Mustafa, the Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, “this progress and success is the result of trust, reconciliation, and the efforts of the President of the regional government of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, in addition to the successful cooperation between us and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in Erbil, Mustafa said “this is the first time we have participated in the General Assembly meeting in New York as part of a delegation from the foreign ministry. Nonetheless, Kurdistan is an important part of Iraq, and I and my colleagues from the regional government have participated previously in committee meetings held after the United Nations General Assembly.”
He added that the “importance of our participation is that we are able to show to the world that we can work as a team, and that the federalist experiment in Iraq is succeeding, Iraqis are united under one country committed to the success of political process. Moreover, by succeeding in our dialogue we can encourage other states to re-open their embassies in Baghdad and consulates in the federal state of Kurdistan, thus improving our political, economic and social relations with these countries for the benefit of both us and them.”
He added that there are 27 foreign representatives in Kurdistan and “other countries are in the process of obtaining approval for opening their representatives in Erbil with the cooperation and the coordination of the federal foreign ministry, there are efforts to encourage the opening of their embassies in Baghdad and consulates in Erbil.”
With regards to the 68th meeting of the General Assembly in New York, Mustafa said that “the main topics for discussion of the delegation with foreign ministers and the UN Secretary General at the meeting were the current situation of Iraq and the Kurdish region, the last set of elections for Kurdish Parliament, and the success of democracy and the elections in Iraq in general.”
“The situation in Syria and the refugee issue and their repercussions on the neighboring countries were an important part of the meetings and discussions, whereby Iraqi and Kurdish efforts were praised for embracing and sheltering an enormous number of refugees,” he added.
Mustafa further stated that the Iraqi delegation held a meeting with Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, to review how the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) can additionally assist and support, furthering its mandate.
He added that “the Iraqi delegation expressed their gratitude towards the activities of United Nations and its mission in Iraq and the Kurdish region.”
Furthermore, “the Sectary General expressed his thanks to the Iraqi government and the government of the Kurdish region for opening its doors to and sheltering and feeding thousands of Syrian refugees.”
Mustafa said that the “presidency and the government of the Kurdish region is taking care of the issue of Syrian refugees, for we ourselves once needed asylum, and our leaders want to alleviate the suffering of our fellow Syrians by providing them with all the necessary health and educational services.”
According to the minister, the delegation discussed the situation of refugees with Helen Clark, Director of the United Nations Development Fund. Iraq has received 227,000 registered Syrian refugees in Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. However, Mustafa believes the actual number of refugees in Iraq to be higher, and added that the KRG was in great need of additional aid to assist them all.