‘Iraq de facto split, poll on table,’ says senior Kurdish official

‘Iraq de facto split, poll on table,’ says senior Kurdish official

İpek Yezdani - ipek.yezdani@hurriyet.com.tr ARBIL
‘Iraq de facto split, poll on table,’ says senior Kurdish official

Hemin Hawrami (L) answers daily Hürriyet report İpek Yezdani’s questions in the northern city of Arbil. HÜRRİYET photo, Selçuk ŞAMİLOĞLU

Iraq is essentially divided already, a senior Kurdish official has said, noting that if the people of Iraqi Kurdistan give their leaders a mandate for an independent state, it will be a country for all citizens living in Kurdistan, regardless of their ethnic origin.

“Our message is this: Please, if you are not supporting these peaceful, democratic, God-given natural rights, don’t stand in front of them,” Hemin Hawrami, the head of foreign relations for President Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is leading the coalition government in Iraqi Kurdistan, told daily Hürriyet in a recent interview at his office in Arbil, referring to a planned referendum for an independent state.

Hawrami said it was not Kurds who were responsible for what has happened to Iraq.

“We didn’t let Iraq be partitioned, but Iraq is now a [de facto] partitioned country. If the people of Kurdistan decide in a democratic way to give our leadership a mandate, then at that time we’ll come and discuss in details with all of the regional countries, with the international community, with Baghdad. We will say: This mandate has been given to the leadership and this is our national right,” Hawrami said.

The Kurdish politician said they were in favor of dialogue and discussion to solve the issue. “We won’t implement this mandate with military force. If the people of Kurdistan decide for that mandate, that entity is not only for the Kurds. It will be for the Turkmens and Arabs as well,” he said.

Coordination with Turkey

Hawrami said there would be continuous coordination and consultation with Turkey in the process. “Because Turkey is a key strategic country for us. We and Turkey need each other. In these 11 years, we, as Kurds, proved for Turkey, for Iran and for regional countries that we are a source of stability. We are not a source of threats to anyone.”

Hawrami said the situation was win-win for Turkey and Kurdistan. “Right now Turkey looks at Kurdistan as a buffer zone between Turkey and instability in the south. They also look at Kurdistan as an excellent market. Look at the Turkish companies here, look at us using Turkey as an energy gate and corridor for the whole world. We have a lot of common self-interest,” Hawrami said, adding that the KRG would remain a source of stability for Turkey regardless of the result of any sovereignty vote.
“We still remain a strategic ally for Turkey and in either position, our relation with Turkey will be a win-win situation. We both need stability, we both need to fight against terrorism and extremism. We both need to grow economically, we both need energy security, we have a long road ahead of us,” he said, while accusing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of letting Iraq become a failed state.

“We are not on the brink of civil war, we are in Baghdad and we are in the middle of a civil war. What else should the Kurds do? Should we wait another 10, 11 years to see how the civil war settles? We need to have a clear picture of the future. Therefore we need a mandate from the Kurdish people,” he said.