UK delegation praises progress in Kurdistan Region during recent trip

“Kurdistan deserves great praise for consistent efforts to advance religious pluralism and tolerance as well as women’s rights.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – During a recent trip to the Kurdistan Region, a group of parliamentarians from the United Kingdom praised the autonomous Kurdish region for its progress toward becoming an example of liberal democracy in the Middle East.

The UK delegation, which consisted of members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region (APPG), included Chairman and Conservative MP Jack Lopresti, Labour MPs Toby Perkins and Steve Reed, and APPG Secretary Gary Kent. The delegation traveled across the Kurdistan Region where they met with senior Kurdish officials and leaders from different parties.

“Prospects in the Kurdistan Region for greater unity and reform, better relations with Baghdad, and increased bilateral relations with the UK are much improved,” the APPG told Kurdistan 24 in an exclusive statement.

“Kurds clearly value the UK’s political and military expertise, the English language, higher education, and our quality goods and services,” it added.

Since 2008, the APPG has organized 16 trips to the Kurdistan Region to further improve ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the UK government.

Economic Opportunity

The APPG statement noted that in meetings with top Kurdistan Region officials, including KRG Prime Minister-designate Masrour Barzani, prospects of more British companies doing business in the autonomous region were discussed.

It said that following years of war and economic crisis, “things are beginning to look up,” adding the UK needs “to overcome the obstacles to this in Kurdistan and in Britain.”

Indeed, economic development and many projects were halted in Kurdistan following the emergence of the so-called Islamic State coupled with Baghdad’s cut of the KRG’s share of the national budget and a global drop in oil prices.

“An official UK trade mission could increase the British appetite for [economic development] and identify impediments to investment,” the statement said.

The British delegation encouraged the Kurdistan Region “to end over-reliance on energy revenues and state employment” and instead invest in its private sectors such as agricultural, tourism, and light industry divisions.

“This can encourage innovation, enterprise, and dynamism.”

Kurdistan Deserves Praise

The APPG pointed to the Kurdish region as a model of tolerance and coexistence in an area that is often criticized for its violations of human rights and freedoms.

“Kurdistan deserves great praise for consistent efforts to advance religious pluralism and
tolerance as well as women’s rights,” it said.

“A Muslim-majority place committed to inclusiveness versus extremism is a great asset for the whole world.”

KRG Leaders Should Visit UK

Following their meeting with PM-designate Barzani and other Kurdish party members, the British delegation said future visits by the KRG President Nechirvan Barzani and the PM-designate would enhance bilateral relations between the two governments.

“We were honored to meet leaders of the Kurdistani parliament…and we will do our best to provide and facilitate expertise exchanges for our mutual benefit.”

Improved ties with the central government in Baghdad as well as reform in Kurdistan “can increase security, investor confidence, and living standards,” the APPG statement concluded.

MP Perkins raised the question of the UK’s relationship with the Kurdistan Region during a parliament session on Tuesday.

In response, Andrew Murrison, who serves as the UK Minister of State for the Middle East and International Development, invited the KRG President to Britain.

“We hope that President Barzani will visit this country in the near future,” Murrison said. “I have no doubt at all that some of these issues will be returned to when he comes to London.”