Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nechirvan Barzani: The mechanism of implementing Article 140 must be modified

Former KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani gestures during an interview with Gulan Magazine. GLOBE PHOTO /Gulan Magazine

The Kurdish Globe
With the upcoming KDP conference, the party's vice president discusses a number of issues
The former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, criticizes the Baghdad administration for the slowdown in implementing the constitution's Article 140 regarding the so-called Disputed Areas, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province. He says that to guarantee the implementation of the article, a new road map must be drawn.

Barzani, who also is the vice president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, made this statement during a recent interview conducted by Gulan Mangazine, an organ of the party, during which he highlighted the preparations for the KDP's upcoming 13th general conference, as well as several political issues.

"To look at Article 140 as it stands... the Kurdistan Region still insists on implementing this constitutional article. To date, Baghdad has not acted on this. Therefore, we must change how it is implemented, and there needs to be a new road map," says Barzani noting that the issue is closely related to solving the oil problem. "Most Arabs and other people wrongly interpret our insistence on Kirkuk and the other disputed areas; they believe we want them because of oil. But oil is not the question. It is much bigger than oil. Once the oil problem is resolved, then the question will be about whether this house is mine or yours."

Barzani urged that a law to distribute oil income must be approved first to lessen the complexity of disputed areas' issue. He further explains that an oil law, approved by both Baghdad and Erbil, will remove the suspicion that "Kurds have secret agendas behind demanding the return of the disputed areas to within the [borders] of Kurdistan Region."

Barzani refutes a common misconception that Kurds demand Kirkuk to strengthen an oil-backed economy as a step toward establishing an independent state.

The disputed areas issue is just one of 19 points Kurdish politicians currently bring up during the ongoing negotiations to form an Iraqi government. "Our issue in Baghdad is not a matter of political parties. We represent the people's issue... therefore, I repeat, once again, that any [Iraqi] party that offers a better response to the Kurdish demands will be the one we ally with," said Barzani of the talks in Baghdad.

Part of the Gulan interview discussed the KDP's general conference in November. Barzani described the conference as "very crucial" for his party as it aims to structure a new program to meet current needs.

"All of us, from President Massoud Barzani and the members of the politburo and leadership committee, agree on one specific point: This party needs change and renewal," says the KDP vice president, noting that the changes do not necessarily mean changing the "faces" or the leaders. That sort of change "is not important for us because it depends on election and on who the conference members will elect as the party's leaders," he says. "Our main goal is to bring about change in the KDP's agenda and program."

He noted that the party is trying to bring more women and young people into the decision-making process. "The KDP's former system was a system of the revolution era and its program was based on that principle. We have since passed that stage and some of our goals have been achieved. We need a different kind of system now... we want every member in the KDP, from the top to the bottom, to feel they are a part of decision making," he says.

Barzani denied the existence of internal rifts, but affirmed that it is accepted and possible for the party's leaders to have different points of view. "Inside the KDP, we express our views in a democratic way and President Barzani takes and accepts them as a matter of course... All our points of view are part of the KDP and under the leadership of President Barzani. Such differences of opinion have always existed within the KDP, and will continue."

Barzani also explained the KDP's relationship with other Kurdistan political parties. On the strategic agreement between the KDP and PUK, Barzani says, "This agreement was signed at a crucial stage for our people. Making this agreement has given a boost to the Kurdistan Region. We are in a transition phase, and should not allow arguments between the KDP and PUK, or other Kurdistan parties, to negate crucial achievements." He adds that the KDP believes this agreement must prevail and that the KDP needs good relations with all parties.

"Opposition is a healthy phenomenon for any democratic country. Opposition and the governing parties complete each other. If the governing parties think they are doing everything right and have no shortcomings, they would be wrong. Likewise, if the opposition thinks everything the government does is wrong, again that would be incorrect. The two sides should act responsibly to enhance the democratic structure of Kurdistan."

On the topic of the Kurdistan Region's relations with the neighboring countries, Barzani proudly describes the improvement in the bilateral relations with Turkey. "When there was tension between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, the KRG... following instructions by President Barzani... made a plan to ride out the tensions, unless the situation escalated," says Barzani, noting that Turkey is currently acting respectfully toward the Kurdistan Region. "At that time, and away from the cameras, we held a calm and covert meeting with them and talked only about the common goals, not the negatives points. I think from that day, we saw great improvement," he says, noting that the Kurdistan Region sees Turkey as a gateway to Europe with its economic and political importance in the region.

Also on the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Barzani makes three points: The Kurdish issue is a political one and is about the Kurdish people; the Kurdish issue must be solved by the countries in which Kurds live; and a peaceful solution is the only way to settle the issue.

On the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Barzani believes it will take compromise from both sides. "This issue has existed in Turkey for 70 or 80 years, and Turkey cannot deny the existence of a large population, like Kurds, inside Turkey. Also, they [Kurds] should not insist an armed struggle is the only way to achieve their goals."

Concerning the Kurdistan Workers Party's recent announcement of ceasefire, he states, "The PKK issue cannot be resolved in a military way... experience has proven the Kurdish problem cannot be solved through military means. The PKK should realize that by killing few Turkish soldiers it cannot achieve its goals... dialogue must be the alternative."

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