Full autonomy, international flights should be restored to Kurdistan

Francois Hollande
author_image Nadia Riva

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – It is in the interest of the Federal Government of Iraq to resolve its differences with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and restore full autonomy and international flights to the Region, a former French President said Friday as he showed solidarity with Syrian Kurdistan as well.

While speaking to Kurdistan 24’s Correspondent in Paris, former French President Francois Hollande, said he hoped Erbil and Baghdad would soon normalize relationships as collective punitive measures on the Kurdistan Region remain in place for a sixth month.

“We have had good working relationships with [Iraqi Prime Minister] Haider al-Abadi. We supported him during the liberation of Mosul, and it is in the interest of all to work together for the reconstruction of Iraq and allow the Kurdistan Region to recover its full autonomy,” Hollande said.

Since the referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region in late 2017 and subsequent retaliatory measures taken by Baghdad, France has been leading the way in helping bring both sides to the negotiating table. The Iraqi federal government imposed an international flight ban on the Region’s airport and took over disputed territories with the help of Iranian-back Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias.  

When asked about the airport ban extension, the French official stressed, “It is important for the airports to reopen, especially Erbil, as it is in the best interest of Iraq as well.”

Hollande recalled that ties between the KRG and France are “deep and historical.” The Former French President visited Kurdistan twice during his tenure, becoming the first European President to visit Kurdistan in 2017.

Touching upon the issue of Hashd al-Shaabi and Iran’s role in Iraq, Hollande cautioned that some initiatives had been taken that brought about this response, likely referencing to the Oct. 16 military takeover of Kirkuk, but hoped the parties involved would, “through a common understanding, find a solution for the KRG to recover its autonomy” and for the fight against the “only enemy worth fighting, [the Islamic State (IS) and terrorism,” to keep going.

“There is no enemy in Iraq other than that one.”

Hollande added that he would, “never forget the role of the Peshmerga in helping defeat IS.”  

“It was the Peshmerga that allowed for Mosul to be liberated as Iraqi Forces also intervened.”

AFRIN

Briefly discussing the Afrin situation, Hollande said it was “unacceptable” for Turkey to hit populations in Syria, more specifically in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), that “have significantly helped Syria rid itself of IS.”

“I wholly supported the coalition’s initiative in supporting our friends the Kurds in retaking Raqqa, so I cannot accept that those who helped us achieve this victory are now being targeted by Turkey.”

On Jan. 20, Turkey announced the military operation intended to drive out the People’s Protection Units (YPG), its Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) from Afrin. The YPG is a leading component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which continues to fight IS in Syria.

(Barzan Hassan contributed to this report)