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President’s Speech: Iraq must not become embroiled in the Middle East conflict

President’s Speech: Iraq must not become embroiled in the Middle East conflict

President Nechirvan Barzani gave a speech in Duhok on November 20 at the Middle East Peace and Security Forum (MEPS), which was held under the auspices of Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. Speakers and guests from Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and several other nations were in attendance at the Forum taking place in the American University of Kurdistan-Duhok.

The President addressed the situation in the wider region and discussed the various challenges currently facing Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

The following is a readout of his speech:

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

I would like to welcome you all, including our esteemed international guests, our esteemed guests from Baghdad, and the governors from other parts of Iraq.

I would like to extend a special welcome to Mr. Bafel Talabani, it brings us great pleasure that he has joined us in Duhok this year. As you are aware, we have had several constructive meetings. Our previous gatherings were very positive, with the presence of Mr. Bafel Talabani, Mr. Qubad Talabani, myself, Mr. Masrour Barzani, and Mr. Hoshyar Zebari. We hope to hold more meetings in the future and reach a mutual understanding.

I extend a warm welcome to everyone and trust that your time in Duhok will be both productive and enjoyable.

My sincere gratitude goes to the American University of Kurdistan for organizing this annual conference and for facilitating discussions on crucial matters concerning peace and security in the Middle East, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region at this important time. Additionally, I extend my appreciation to Mr. Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, for his important work, from day one, of establishing the American University in Duhok, and for initiating this conference. My heartfelt thanks to you.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s conference coincides with a critical escalation in the region, posing a significant threat to both regional and global peace and stability. The complexity of this situation has impacted the entire world, as the interconnectedness of our global economy means that events in one part of the world can have far-reaching consequences. The recent Israeli-Hamas conflict serves as a stark reminder that global security is not just an abstract concept, but a tangible and vital concern for us all.

The escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, coupled with the intervention of regional and global powers in the area, has further exacerbated the already challenging and alarming situation. The state of affairs in both the region and the world at large will persist and deteriorate.

In these circumstances, it is imperative for us in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to address this situation with utmost caution. Under no circumstances should we allow Iraq to become embroiled in this conflict and further complicate matters. This would exact a heavy toll.

In order to progress, it is imperative that Iraq achieves stability. The current situation calls for a shift in focus towards Iraq becoming a space for resolving the problems that its people face, rather than perpetuating the conflicts and complexities of the surrounding region.

The recent resurgence of conflict between Hamas and Israel has underscored a fundamental truth: delaying the resolution of problems only allows them to fester and eventually explode into something far worse. Power, warfare, and violence may provide temporary respite in a given situation, but they only serve to deepen the divide. The path to true resolution lies in peace, and it requires genuine courage to confront and solve the underlying issues.

Engaging in war only perpetuates a cycle of revenge, violence, and destruction, ultimately exacting a heavier price for everyone involved, just as is happening in the region now. Left unchecked, it only gets bigger and worse.

The internationally endorsed two-state solution, which guarantees the right to peace and existence for both sides, remains the only viable path to untangle the complexities and bring an end to the cycle of war. Decades of conflict and the resulting loss of life and devastation have proven futile in bringing about any meaningful change for Palestine and Israel. It is only through courage and a resolute commitment to peace that a lasting solution can be achieved.

It is imperative for the global community to come together and put an end to the ongoing war. The senseless killing and destruction of innocent civilians must cease, and all prisoners and hostages should be freed. Only then can we begin to work towards a lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one that involves the establishment of two separate states. Failure to learn from past mistakes will only lead to waking up one day to something even worse.

Distinguished Guests,

The 20 years since Iraq’s liberation could have been far better if the Constitution had been enforced with a federal system. The absence of a federal order and the disregard for the Constitution have brought about political ambiguity and widespread instability, causing Iraq to remain precarious.

To resolve the current issues, it is imperative for Iraqi political leaders to revisit the fundamental principles of partnership, reconciliation, and balance that formed the foundation of the new Iraq and to return to the spirit in which the Iraqi Constitution was drafted. The political parties in Iraq must work together to establish the laws mandated by the Constitution and collaborate with the government and state institutions to execute the Constitution effectively.

The Iraqi Constitution is founded on a federal system, which ensures equality and full participation for all regions and communities in Iraq. With this partnership, the people of Iraq will progress economically and unite socially. Embracing federalism is the right approach to address Iraq’s challenges. Resorting to force-based approaches will not heal Iraq’s wounds; instead, it will exacerbate the problems and increase the risks.

For Iraq to achieve stability and security, as well as to establish itself as a prominent player in the region and the world, it is imperative that it becomes a nation that embraces all its diverse communities without any discrimination or infringement of their rights. The coexistence of all its components will only strengthen Iraq, while any division or conflict will only weaken and hinder its progress.

It is imperative that all political parties take part in the governance of the nation and work towards ensuring that every Iraqi citizen, irrespective of their religion or nationality, feels a sense of belonging and equality in the country, free from oppression, discrimination, and violation.

The resolution of Iraq’s problems lies in its political elite and parties working in accordance with the spirit and the contents of the Iraqi Constitution. It is a matter of common sense and prioritizing the country’s interests above all else. By doing so, all issues can be easily resolved in a spirit of partnership and peace.

In light of the complex circumstances prevailing in the region, it is imperative for us, the people of Iraq, to conduct ourselves astutely and thoughtfully. In order to confront the multitude of challenges, Iraq must address its internal issues. Safeguarding political stability within the nation is of paramount importance at present. Iraq continues to grapple with the aftermath of ISIS’s defeat, enduring economic and service-related hardships, and yearning for stability. Any action that jeopardizes the political stability of the country will undoubtedly inflict severe hardships upon the lives of the Iraqi people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We believe that resolving the Kurdistan Region’s crisis with the Federal Government of Iraq is crucial for ensuring Iraq’s stability. The Iraqi Constitution provides a well-defined path towards addressing these issues. All that is required is strong determination from the political parties to find solutions.

The Kurdistan Region stands prepared to engage with Baghdad in accordance with the Constitution and through mutual understanding. A resolution is beneficial for the entire nation, safeguarding the constitutional rights of all. While a solution has not yet been reached, the ongoing dialogue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Federal Government of Iraq is very important in addressing the existing issues.

The outcomes of the negotiations thus far have not met the wishes and expectations of the Kurdistan Region. Nevertheless, we firmly believe that persisting with the talks is the only and the correct approach. We shall not surrender, and our determination to seek resolutions to the challenges is unwavering. In this context, we commend the endeavors of Mr. Mohammed Al-Shia Sudan, the Prime Minister of Federal Iraq, and give him our full support.

The current situation for public employees, retirees, and workers in the Kurdistan Region is dire. It is imperative that the government and state institutions in Iraq, as a national duty, prioritize finding a fundamental solution to the budget and salaries in the Region. The financial crisis and the pressure on the livelihoods of the people in Kurdistan can only be resolved through a swift agreement between the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Urgent action is needed to alleviate the anxiety that has impacted the lives, jobs, and markets of all those living in the Kurdistan Region.

Eliminating the obstacles to resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region is essential. The blockade on the Kurdistan Region’s oil exports has resulted in severe financial losses for Iraq, impacting both the country’s general income and overall economy, without providing any benefits to Iraq.

Distinguished Guests,

Amidst the tensions prevailing in the wider region, we in the Kurdistan Region must properly read, assess and understand the ongoing developments and their possible repercussions. It is the principal duty of all the political parties to establish a unified political front. In this regard, the main responsibility lies with the KDP and PUK to achieve a rapprochement and address their challenges. Our previous gathering proved to be fruitful, and it is crucial that we maintain the momentum by continuing these productive meetings.

There is no problem between the KDP and PUK that can’t be solved. And it is crucial to acknowledge that the Kurdistan Region is confronted with formidable threats and challenges, surpassing those faced by any other nation. The most effective approach to tackling these obstacles is through understanding, partnership and cooperation.

The Kurdistan Region’s political parties, both here and in Baghdad, have the potential to improve the quality of life and well-being of citizens, while also safeguarding their hard-won rights and accomplishments for which so many made sacrifices. Hence, now more than ever the people of Kurdistan from every background want the parties to be united. Their unity safeguards the region’s constitutional status and achievements.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As discussed in the forums and conversations held here, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are not only grappling with political, security, and economic challenges, but also with the impact of climate change. Undoubtedly, it poses a significant threat that requires extensive planning and concerted efforts to mitigate its effect on Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the wider region, now and in the future.

It is imperative to address this matter with utmost seriousness. In order to achieve this, Iraq and the neighboring nations must foster cooperation between themselves as well as with nations across the world. I hope that the deliberations at this forum will contribute towards identifying effective strategies to counter and mitigate the impact of this imminent danger.

The crucial and important topic of artificial intelligence is currently the focus of science and technology discussions. It is commendable that the American University of Kurdistan, as well as other universities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, are giving it special attention and examining its impact, both positive and negative, on the future of humanity.

I am glad to see the high level of awareness among the students and young people of Kurdistan regarding climate change, as well as their engagement with artificial intelligence. It is very encouraging to see the level of awareness and understanding shown by the new generation in Kurdistan, and I am hopeful that they will pave the way for a better future for generations to come.

Once again, I extend my best wishes for a successful Middle East Peace and Security Forum.

Thank you.

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