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Iraqi Kurdish Official on Talks with US Officials | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Falah Mustafa, The head of the Kurdish Foreign Relations Department in the local government of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq has stressed that “the Kurdish leadership, including the government of the region, is determined to use dialogue as its method and remind others that today’s Iraq is not the Iraq of previous regimes, but a federal, democratic, multilateral country and that the Kurds are major partners in the political process. We have contributed and will continue to contribute to the political process.”

From his headquarters in the regional capital Irbil, Mustafa told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We know that some politicians in the federal government and the Council of Deputies [Parliament] deliberately take positions that do not show respect for the experience of Iraq’s Kurdistan and do not wish to see the region and Kurdish people prosper and progress. But we shall persevere in our experience and persist in our honest work. We have embraced the federal system by choice and out of our free will and we have chosen to be partners in the federal government. We are the original participants in this experiment and we will continue to insist on a democratic Iraq. Even the motto of the Kurdish revolution was “Freedom for Kurdistan and democracy for Iraq.” He pointed out that “those who wish to return Iraq to the old days must realize that they are taking the country on a dangerous slippery path and we shall do our best to prevent such disastrous steps.”

The Kurdish official returned to Iraq the day before yesterday [19 September] from a tour of the United States, during which he and the Kurdish region’s representative in Washington Qubad Talabani attended the conferences of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. He said: “We have attended the meetings and conferences of the two parties and we met in Washington with US officials from the State Department and Ministry of Defense and we discussed the situation in Iraq and the Kurdish region.”

The head of the Department of Foreign Relations in the Kurdish region’s government explained: “We discussed the Kurdish region’s fears and the feeling of the region’s government regarding the absence of real participation in the decision-making process in Iraq. Our position is constant and clear regarding all the issues from which Iraq is suffering, including the latest events.” He also noted that “the strategic agreement between Iraq and the United States was discussed.”

Mustafa stressed that “the Kurdish leadership wishes to see the strategic agreement between the United States and Iraq signed” and that the leadership “supports the agreement, as it puts the US forces’ presence and relations with the US Administration on a legal footing and lays down the confines of the US forces’ conduct and their deployment in Iraq, while emphasizing respect for the sovereignty of the state.”

The Kurdish official added: “Our position is clear. We wish to confirm that the Kurdistan region is an important part of a new democratic multilateral Iraq based on the constitution approved by all political, national, and religious shades of the Iraqi people. We as Kurds have participated and we continue to participate in building Iraq’s civilization and we believe the constitution is the arbiter. There are some who do not understand the meaning of a federal Iraq, as the experience is still new to the country, and there are some who do not want to believe in this experience. But we shall continue to work patiently with others to prove to them that the new regime is multilateral and democratic and that the success of the political process is contingent on respect for these foundations and for federalism. It is in the interest of Iraq and the entire Iraqi people’s prosperity and progress.”

Concerning Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s call for “establishing a strong central government, which is stronger than the federal system, to protect the country,” Falah Mustafa said: “What we want of the federal government is to be strong in its performance, not its military power. We want the federal government to fulfill its promises to the Iraqi people and provide the necessary services, education, and progress, and for the Iraqi citizen to enjoy a good standard of living, commensurate with the country’s wealth. We want the federal government to create job opportunities and create a prosperous, civilized, progressive Iraq in industry, education, culture, and technological development. This is the meaning of power as we understand it, not the military power from which the Iraqi people have suffered. The military power of previous regimes, particularly Saddam Hussein’s, was only used against the Iraqi people. It was practiced forcefully and wildly against our Kurdish people and cities. If the federal government wishes to be interested in this kind of power, we say it was not a successful experience. The previous regime practiced its power against the Iraqi people and against us to impose its power, domination, and arrogance in a dictatorial manner, but it did not succeed. We in Kurdistan want the power of the federal government’s performance; and when the federated parts or regions are strong, the federal government will surely be strong as a result of the strength, prosperity, and progress of its regions.”

The Kurdish official disclosed that “the missing link in the relation between the Kurdish region and the federal government is that the federal government does not respect the rights and prerogatives that the constitution confers on regional governments. But we shall continue our dialogue and coordination with the federal government with a view to reaching common ground.”