‘Violence’ not the way to Kurdish statehood, says KRG President Barzani

‘Violence’ not the way to Kurdish statehood, says KRG President Barzani

‘Violence’ not the way to Kurdish statehood, says KRG President Barzani

Massoud Barzani answered AFP journalists' questions during an interview on Oct 12, 2013 in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. AFP PHOTO

Kurds have a right to self-determination and statehood, but this will not be accomplished through violence, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, has said.

It is “a natural right for there to be a state for the Kurdish people, but this will not be achieved by violence, and must be done in a natural way,” Barzani said in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse.

"This age is the age of understanding, and we encourage dialogue between the Kurds and... the states” where Kurdish populations live, he said.

In Iraq, the Kurds now have a three-province autonomous region in the country’s north with its own government, security forces, flag and borders. Although Iraqi Kurdistan and the federal government in Baghdad moved to reduce high tensions earlier this year, they are still at odds over a number of issues.

Iraqi Kurdistan has sought to establish a pipeline that would give it access to international energy markets, sent crude across the border to neighboring Turkey, and signed deals with foreign energy firms.It has also capitalized on its reputation for greater safety and stability, as well as a faster-growing economy than the rest of Iraq, to solicit investment independent of the federal government.

Barzani also said that political disputes and rampant violence that is killing hundreds of people in Iraq each month will likely not be resolved before parliamentary elections next year. “I do not believe that the fundamental problems will be resolved until these elections,” Barzani said, adding that “there is real fear ... that the conflicts will develop into a civil war.”

‘Ready to strike militants in Syria, Iraq’

Iraqi Kurdish leader also said they are prepared to strike militants anywhere, including in neighboring Syria, but must avoid being drawn into its civil war, the region’s President Massoud Barzani has said.

Barzani’s remarks came after militants carried out a late-September attack on a security service headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, killing seven people. “We will not hesitate in directing strikes (against) the terrorist criminals in any place,” Barzani said, when asked about the possibility of Kurdish action against militants in Iraq or Syria. “Our duty is to protect the Kurds if we are able,” he said.

 But the long-time Kurdish leader made a distinction between that and being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, which he said the Kurds must try to avoid. “Our opinion is that the Kurds must stand at the same distance” from all parties in the conflict, so “the Kurdish people are not forced into a war” from which they will gain nothing, Barzani said.