By Falah Mustafa Bakir
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is asking his country’s parliament this week to unanimously approve a "mobilization" against the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), an action that he and other Turkish leaders have signaled could include a Turkish military attack on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Such an attack would represent the gravest challenge to Iraq since our liberation from Saddam Hussein in 2003 and would jeopardize, perhaps fatally, the success of the American mission in Iraq.
The Kurdistan Region is Iraq’s safest and most secure. But we may soon pay a heavy price for the actions of the PKK in Turkey, and for a House Foreign Affairs Committee vote about Armenia in the U.S. – neither of which have anything to do with the Kurds of Iraq or the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG.)
The KRG seeks no conflict with Turkey. Quite the opposite: the KRG considers friendly relations with Turkey its top priority. We consider the Turkish people as close friends and neighbors with whom we have much in common. Turkish trade and investment has been instrumental to our region's economic growth. We are interested in pursuing stronger ties through direct dialogue with Ankara on any and all issues of common interest. Any problems or disagreements should be solved through diplomacy and dialogue, not threats of military force.
We condemn the killing of innocent people and we do not believe that violence ever solves problems. The KRG has supported U.S. mediation efforts with Iraq and Turkey about the PKK, and has encouraged efforts toward a comprehensive political solution to the problem of the PKK, which cannot be solved solely through military means.
The KRG does not and will not support the de-stabilization of Turkey or any of our neighbors. We respect and practice the principle of noninterference in the affairs of others, and expect the same in return. In that context, the Iranian intimidation and shelling of villages and towns along our eastern border must also stop. As with Turkey, we seek no confrontation with Iran. Since 1991, we have proven to Turkey, Iran and all of Iraq's neighbors that the Kurds are a stabilizing factor in Iraq and the Middle East.
The stakes could not be higher for Iraq, and for the peace and prosperity of the Kurdistan Region, which has proven itself the model and gateway for a new Iraq. The Kurds are America's most loyal and trusted allies in pursuit of an independent, democratic and federal Iraq. The current crisis on our borders comes at an especially inopportune and sensitive time with regard to on-going efforts in Iraq toward national reconciliation. This is very much a work in progress, but there is progress.
There is an emerging consensus among Iraqi politicians about federalism, which is Iraq's constitutionally mandated form of government. KRG President Masoud Barzani has called for a conference in Erbil among Iraq's political leaders to discuss how to implement a federal system of governance in our country. The diversity of Iraqi society is a source of strength, not division. Federalism has worked around the world – in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and in many other countries. It should be seen as the solution, rather than the problem, for the deep governance challenges in Iraq. Federalism is not "partition," as some have misrepresented it. We appreciate those in the U.S. Senate who understand and have recognized the reality of a federal Iraq through an amendment to the U.S. Defense Authorization bill.
Some neighboring countries see the shadow of independence falling across all that we do in the Kurdistan Region. When the Iraqi constitution was drafted four years ago, the Kurdistan Region’s leadership made a firm decision to remain part of Iraq. Despite the national tragedy that has befallen much of the rest of Iraq, we remain committed to that course of action today. We believe today that our future is best secured by becoming an active participant in a federal, democratic and secular Iraq.
Falah Mustafa Bakir is the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, with Ministerial rank, in the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq.
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