UK officials hopeful of future relations with Kurdistan, praise new KRG cabinet

UK lawmakers and diplomats say they are optimistic about relations of their nation with the autonomous Kurdistan Region and praised the region's new leadership, namely Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and President Nechirvan Barzani.
author_image Sangar Ali

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – UK lawmakers and diplomats say they are optimistic about relations of their nation with the autonomous Kurdistan Region and praised the region's new leadership, namely Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and President Nechirvan Barzani.

On June 10, the Kurdistan Parliament by majority vote appointed the new regional President and nominated the Prime Minister; two senior leaders of the leading Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), a political group that won Sep. 2018 parliamentary elections with a large margin by securing 45 parliamentary seats. In second place followed the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with 21 seats and in third with 12 seats was the Gorran (Change) Movement.

One month later on July 10, the parliament confirmed the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet by a majority vote. It's a government that has promised to strengthen the Kurdistan Region and conduct reforms, improve governance, and turn a new page in relations between Erbil and Baghdad.

“I think he will make a great prime minister,” British member of the UK Parliament Nadhim Zahawi told Kurdistan 24 last week during the KRG Summer Reception event organized in London. “He is thoughtful, considerate, and deliberate.”

He went on to call Prime Minister Barzani’s cabinet “a great team” that would be expected to focus on the prosperity of the Kurdistan Region and improve the relationship with both Baghdad and various neighboring countries.

“I think this bodes very well for Kurdistan having Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and President Nechirvan Barzani. I think it’s a great combination,” Zahawi continued.

“If you think of succession planning anywhere in the world, including the United Kingdom, you couldn't have hoped for two better leaders… I think this is a very, very important moment in the history of Kurdistan.”

Others as well are hopeful that the relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the UK will continue to flourish during the new administration's four-year term.

“I am very optimistic that Mr. [Masrour] Barzani will bring the skills and the attributes that we need to see the development of the right relationship between Kurdistan and Iraq, and the development of course of the relationship between the [KRG], the UK government, the Scottish government, and the Scottish Parliament,” Scottish Parliament Member Lewis Macdonald, told Kurdistan 24 during the event.

He stated that Scotland and the Kurdistan Region have a great deal in common and also much to learn from each other.

“I think Mr. Barzani will bring the right qualities to enable that learning to happen and all of us to move forward together,” MacDonald said.

UK lawmaker Mary Glindon highlighted the significance of developing relationships between citizens of the UK and the Kurdistan Region, primarily through tourism.

“I think the UK has got a lot of responsibility in how we can develop that and how we can foster that because it's important to the economy of both countries,” Glindon told Kurdistan 24.

“So that's what I look forward to happening more and more and, you know, to see how the new government can develop and how we can foster our relationship even further.”

Jack Lopresti, a conservative member of the UK Parliament and the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region, described in positive terms the ties between the Kurdistan Region and the UK.

“Well, it's a very warm, long-ranging, close relationship with lots of crossover between people coming to the UK to study businesses and investing in Kurdistan and, importantly, military and strategic links,” Lopresti told Kurdistan 24. “So, great friendships, proper solid links, and a great future.” 

Talking to Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday, the newly appointed British Consul General in Erbil, James Thornton, congratulated Prime Minister Barzani, stating that his diplomatic mission will put a high priority on forming a very close relationship with the Kurdish leader. 

The UK upgraded its embassy office in Erbil to a Consulate-General since 2011. Since then, many senior British officials have visited the autonomous region, especially in recent years during the war against the Islamic State. The UK is one of the key members of the US-led coalition to defeat the jihadist group.

Tom Hardie-Forsyth, a senior adviser to the KRG, a former British Cabinet Office, and former NATO official, described Masrour Barzani as “a very safe pair of hands” for the Region.

“I've known him and known about him and his work for many years and the way he was able to help secure Kurdistan against almost overwhelming odds, I think, is enough to tell you about the personality of the man,” he told Kurdistan 24 during the KRG event in London.

“He will be an extremely effective prime minister and, more importantly, I think he has a really good sense of how to negotiate, even in hard times.”

“So,” he concluded, “I think, from every point of view, you're a winner with Masrour Barzani - without a doubt.”

Editing by John J. Catherine 

(Additional reporting by Barzan Hassan)