Iraq should stay away from Gaza conflict, says PM Barzani
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Battered by enough issues at home, Iraq should stay away from the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said on Tuesday at the MEPS23 Forum in Duhok.
Barzani took part in a special conversation with Ms Maryam Moshiri of the BBC at the Middle East Peace and Security Forum, where wide-ranging topics regarding Erbil-Baghdad issues, ongoing Hamas-Israel war in Gaza, domestic Kurdish politics, and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reform programs, were highlighted.
Addressing the bloody battles in the Gaza Strip, where already more than 13,000 people have been killed and the risk of a regional escalation from the conflict is believed to be imminent; Barzani said “Iraq should stay away from the conflict,” as Baghdad has enough issues to deal with.
The premier denounced the war and slammed any efforts to resolve problems through violence, as the latter “cannot even be a way” for conflict resolution.
In his address on the first day of the forum on Monday, Barzani similarly highlighted the conflict and reminded the audience that the Kurds are also entitled to self-determination rights, as the two-solution has been touted as the key solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“Kurds have also demanded the same rights and dignities, yet our cause has often been forsaken. How do you reconcile resounding support for one just cause and deafening silence for another?” the premier said in the speech.
In another part of the conversation, Barzani highlighted his cabinet's reforms in various sectors, particularly in the banking and digitalization of public services.
MyAccount initiative, a financial inclusion program that the KRG is currently rolling out, to digitalize the payment system of public employees, will include more than a million public servants by the end of 2024, Barzani said.
Hundreds of thousands of employees in Erbil province are now owning a bank card through the program. The initiative will begin in Duhok and Sulaimani this month, the premier added.
About 1,000 ATMs will be installed over the coming years along with 40,000 payment terminals, according to the premier.
Fighting corruption has also been an integral part of the cabinet since its inception in July 2019, Barzani said, adding his strategy in the fight against corruption is to "stop" it.
"There are individuals who must be held accountable for their bad deeds," he said, adding his cabinet is "on the right track" in fighting the issue.
The Kurdistan Region is similarly faced with the adverse effects of climate change in the Middle East, the official said, adding the issue is a source of concern for him personally.
Fighting climate change effects, which have the potential to lead to migration, requires collective efforts, according to Barzani, saying the threats from the issue are "serious" and can be witnessed currently.
He also urged the public to take the threats from climate change seriously.
Youth and Employment
With regard to the young Kurdish population, Barzani said the government has been working to create more opportunities for its youth, particularly with regard to job creation.
Laws have been amended in order to create opportunities for the youth, he said, highlighting the Bloom Project that his government has recently launched to provide financial support for small and medium projects in the region.
In response to a question about the lack of job opportunities in the Kurdistan Region, Barzani said hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are currently working in the Kurdish region.
The government is also working on an innovation center that will help the youth to foster their ideas, he said.
"I'm personally not very much fond of the word minorities because we've paid a heavy price for being a minority and we've always been looked down upon," Barzani said, adding the region's citizens "all enjoy the same rights," and the government does not favor a particular group.
"It’s not about the majority and minority, it’s about the diversity of communities, religions, and ethnicities," he added.
"Everybody is equal in Kurdistan," Barzani said.
The Kurdistan Region has hosted over two million IDPs and refugees since 2014 as a result of the Syrian civil war and the emergence of ISIS.
"That speaks volumes about where Kurdistan stands on the rights of different communities," he said.
International oil companies
Barzani said the Kurdistan Region does not only defend its constitutional rights in Baghdad, rather it defends the rights of its partners as well, including the international oil companies that have invested in the Kurdistan Region's oil fields.
He said the Kurdish region will continue defending its rights and will not give them up "to please anyone."
Regarding the latest Iraqi Federal Supreme Court decision that had removed the membership of the Iraqi speaker of parliament, Barzani said the timing of the verdict was "wrong".
He said the Sunni representatives must be respected, as they are an integral part of the Iraqi political process.