Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) praised on Monday the work of health and police officials across the region in rushing to the aid of victims of last night’s earthquake while urging Baghdad to heed Erbil’s calls for dialogue and for the United States to stay neutral and help find a solution.
“We are sending teams to those areas to assess the situation and we spare no efforts to help them,” Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said at a press conference.
“I also thank the Garmian administration official, police and security who rushed last night to those places and did all they could to serve their people,” Barzani said.
Prime Minister Barzani also thanked the Republic of Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for contacting the KRG immediately after the earthquake and offering to send help.
“Here we thank the office of Turkish President, their consulate, and foreign ministry who contacted us and sent aid through Ibrahim Khalil and a plane landed in Sulaimani,” he said. “I thank the Turkish Afat organization and the office of the office of the Turkish president.”
“They did what was expected of them as they have helped the people of the Kurdistan Region during the hard times.”
Barzani said that his government has sent its reservations and notes to Baghdad about the draft budget for 2018.
“We insisted on our share of 17 percent as set out in the constitution,” Barzani said. “Unfortunately there are many issues with the draft and Baghdad has stopped sending our share of medical supplies too.”
“We have 1.5 refugees and IDPs in the Kurdistan Region and not sending medicines will further increase the problem.”
Barzani said that if Baghdad was serious about paying KRG employees, “they are then welcome to our immaculate biometric system of salaries and they can audit our numbers, too.”
He doubted however that Iraq was serious in its promises, saying “Iraq works on two tracks. On the one hand they promise people to pay their salaries and on the other hand they work to dismantle the Kurdistan Region a constitutionally recognized entity.”
The prime minister confirmed that there were currently no military movements on any of the frontlines between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Barzani said that Baghdad has up to this point not responded to Erbil’s proposals for dialogue: “But we repeat our call that we must solve all the problems through the constitution and dialogue,”
He went on to say that with his deputy Qubad Talabani they will start a round of talks with Kurdistan Region’s political parties in order to find a common ground and unity before any talks with Baghdad.
“We welcome any idea or project that could help the situation,” he said in response to a question that the Change Movement (Gorran) may have prepared a package for talks.
The Kurdish prime minister explained that his government had solved its disagreements with Dana Gas and that the Russian Rosneft had played a role.
“We had an issue with Dana Gas which was referred to London,” he said. “Since then we have had an agreement and the problem solved. Rosneft was helpful in solving that issue with Dana Gas.”
On the ruling of Iraq’s Federal Court last week that said the Kurdish independence referendum of September was illegal, Barzani said: “Our opinion on the Federal Court we have studied it in detail and soon the KRG will make its express position on that officially.”
Barzani touched upon America’s financial aid to the Kurdish Peshmerga, saying: “We have an agreement with US Defense Department and they have helped the Peshmerga. Now that has expired and we will try to renew it. We are thankful that in the Congress it has been taken into account. We need that help for the Peshmerga and for the war against ISIS in Iraq and Kurdistan Region.”
PM Barzani said that Erbil wanted good relations with Iran and all its neighbors and the world, including the United States. He said that Iran had opened the Bashmkh border crossing and the rest should open too “because that will be in the best interest of Iran itself and the Kurdistan Region.”
Lastly, Barzani called on the United States to help Erbil and Baghdad find a solution instead of taking sides.
“The US said they want a strong Kurdistan Region within Iraq but what they do does not reflect that on the ground. The US is siding with Baghdad. We want the US to be neutral and help us find a solution.”
To Iraqi leaders, PM Barzani said, “We should ask ourselves: Do we want lasting stability in Iraq or do we want these crises to continue? If we want stability then we must forget this mentality of strong versus weak.”