The significance of Prime Minister Barzani’s official visits to Turkey and Britain

Kurdistan Region PM Masrour Barzani (left) during a meeting with his British counterpart Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, London, April 19, 2022. (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP)
Kurdistan Region PM Masrour Barzani (left) during a meeting with his British counterpart Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, London, April 19, 2022. (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP)

In the space of a week, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani made official visits to Turkey and the United Kingdom and discussed the critical issues the region is facing with senior officials in those countries. 

The visits coincided with a number of serious developments in both Europe and the Middle East. These developments include, but were not limited to, the Russia-Ukraine war, the migration issue, the stalemate over Iraqi government formation, the Iraqi Supreme Federal Court’s unexpected rule against the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas, as well as internal disputes over the Kurdistan Parliament elections scheduled for Oct. 1. 

Barzani first traveled to Turkey on Apr. 15 and then to London on Apr. 18. 

“Turkey and the United Kingdom are significant for Kurdistan Region,” Khalid Rasool, a local political observer in Erbil, told Kurdistan 24. “Kurdistan has significant economic and business ties with Turkey and strong relations with the United Kingdom on fighting terrorism, training Peshmerga, and trade. Therefore, both visits were a must and were at the right time to fasten some loosened bolts.” 

“Most importantly, both countries are significant for Kurdistan Region’s stability and security,” he added. 

Akar Mahmoud, a local political analyst in Erbil, also pointed out how substantive the international media coverage of the visits was. 

“If you look at Reuters headline about the visit, one can see that it is so significant to describe Kurdistan’s prime minister in terms of a completely independent state,” he said. “One headline says, ‘UK and Kurdish leaders’. This tells a lot. That is support and recognition.” 

Talks between Kurdistan Region prime minister and the Turkish president focused on trade, bilateral relations, and the latest political developments in the region. Prime Minister Barzani tweeted that he had had “a productive exchange … exploring new opportunities to increase bilateral trade and investment.” 

“Having Turkish investment in Kurdistan gives more credit to this significant visit in such a trying time economically for both sides,” noted Mahmoud. “Both need more cooperation as we all know that the Russia-Ukraine war has badly affected everyone economically.” 

Barzani’s speech in London-based Chatham House focused on events in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and the Middle East. Regarding Erbil-Baghdad relations, Barzani stated, “We in Kurdistan have not often had reason to believe that Baghdad has our best interests at heart” and that any agreement with Baghdad has always required “constant monitoring.” 

Concerning any hope and chance to rescue Iraq from the current stalemate, Barzani said, “While I speak to you as a Kurd, I would like for my voice to carry the weight of all Iraqis, and I hope that it will. We all aspired for a better future in 2003. But the situation we all find ourselves in now can’t go on. We must be brave enough to recognize this and to come up with solutions.” 

“Barzani’s speech at the Chatham House was brave and strong,” noted Rasool. “He candidly told everyone in the world that they must be brave to recognize the deadlock and seek new ways to solve the issues.”

“It’s necessary to say this right now, and he said it.”