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President Barzani’s Statements at Press Conference in Baghdad

President Barzani’s Statements at Press Conference in Baghdad

President Nechirvan Barzani held a press conference in Baghdad on January 14, where he responded to journalists’ questions about his meetings in the Iraqi capital.

The following is a readout of his remarks to journalists.

“Our purpose in coming to Baghdad was primarily to take part in the Iraqi Martyr’s Day commemoration. We participated in the ceremony and since yesterday, we have engaged in a series of meetings and discussions with many Iraqi politicians, including the Prime Minister and Iraqi political parties. These meetings are essential. It is only natural that we, as part of this country, visit Baghdad to address the issues that need to be resolved and find solutions to them.

“During the meetings that we held today and yesterday, we focused on two main issues. Firstly, we discussed the livelihoods of the people of Kurdistan. From our perspective, the Kurdistan Regional Government has fulfilled all its obligations towards Baghdad, and now it is crucial for Baghdad to reciprocate by ensuring equal treatment of all Iraqi provinces, including the Kurdistan Region, regarding salaries. Salaries should not be politicized or used to exert pressure on the Kurdistan Region. We are confident that the Prime Minister understands this matter well and will make every effort to resolve it. Today, he made an unexpected decision during the Council of Ministers meeting, which was not initially on the agenda. However, he expressed great enthusiasm in including this issue in the meeting’s agenda. From our standpoint, this decision is a positive start towards resolving these issues.

“Another concern that we have addressed with all parties is the matter of security. We firmly believe that these drones attacks on the Kurdistan Region harm the security of both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole, because [our security] is interconnected and cannot be separated. While further discussions are necessary, we remain hopeful that this issue will be successfully resolved.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to the people of the Kurdistan Region and the hardworking public employees for their resilience. Throughout Kurdistan Region, they been very patient and dedicated. I sincerely hope that this year the topic of salaries will not be in the headlines once again. The salaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) employees should be provided in a fair and timely manner, just like those of any other employees in Iraq.”

When asked about the deadline for resolving the salary issue between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Federal Government, President Nechirvan Barzani responded, “Fortunately, the Kurdistan Regional Government delegation has approached this matter with utmost seriousness. It is not just me, but the entire Kurdistan Regional Government and the delegations from Erbil who have diligently worked on this issue. Our collective efforts aim to address the root cause. The payment of employees’ rightful salaries should not be headline news.”

Regarding the issue of amending the budget law and resolving the entitlements of the Kurdistan Region, he said,

“Certainly, it is crucial to acknowledge that an amount exceeding 875 billion dinars is required to cover the salaries in the Kurdistan Region. It is important to emphasize that this amount solely pertains to salaries. The Kurdistan Regional Government has demonstrated utmost transparency in addressing this matter and has diligently provided all necessary information to Baghdad. Now, it is imperative for Baghdad to reciprocate and ensure the provision of public employees’ salaries in the Kurdistan Region.”

In response to a question regarding the connection between the decision made by the Iraqi Council of Ministers to allocate 615 billion dinars to the Kurdistan Region and President Nechirvan Barzani’s visit to Baghdad, President Barzani stated,

“I am grateful that the Prime Minister mentioned yesterday that this matter will be presented during the Council of Ministers’ meeting. However, it is important to note that this is not solely my endeavor. The Kurdistan Regional Government had already dispatched a delegation to Baghdad prior to my visit, they have continuously engaged in extensive discussions and made significant efforts with Baghdad. We have all been diligently working to resolve this issue with Baghdad.”

Regarding the extent to which preventing the drone attacks against the Kurdistan Region was discussed, and any guarantees made, the President said,

“The deployment of drones against the Kurdistan Region is a direct violation of Iraqi sovereignty and undermines the authority of the Iraqi Prime Minister as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Our stance on this matter remains unwavering – this problem must be solved. As for guarantees, I didn’t receive any. However, I very clearly expressed Kurdistan Region’s position in my speech at the [Martyr’s Day] commemoration ceremony. We reiterate our position and emphasize that those who carry out these unlawful attacks, are, before anything else, violating Iraq’s sovereignty. There is no distinction between Erbil and Baghdad in terms of Iraqi sovereignty, both cities are part of Iraq. These attacks on Erbil by some armed forces are not only a violation against Kurdistan Region, they are a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. It is imperative that these actions cease immediately and cannot be allowed to persist. There is a mutual understanding of the gravity of this issue, and we remain hopeful that a resolution will be reached.”

President Nechirvan Barzani addressed the budget, setting a deadline, the process of amending the law, and the upcoming meeting between the Iraqi Independent Election Commission and the Kurdistan Region Presidency:

“The primary focus of the Kurdistan Regional Government is a budget law that safeguards the rights of employees in the Kurdistan Region. On the issue of the [Kurdistan Parliament] elections, it’s very unfortunate that they have been delayed considerably, and even worse, the delay undermines the legitimacy of Kurdistan Region’s institutions. We have requested that an Electoral Commission delegation visit Erbil. Additionally, I will be meeting with my colleagues in the Presidency over the next two days to discuss a suitable date for the elections. It’s very unfortunate that when we in the Kurdistan Region Presidency set the election date, for many reasons it can’t go ahead. I sincerely hope that this is the last time we face this situation.”

In response to a question about the possibility that the anticipated end of the current Electoral Commission’s tenure would further delay the elections, the President said,

“We must strive to conduct the elections prior to that [the expiration of the current Electoral Commission’s term of office].”

When questioned about the unresolved matter of salaries and financial entitlements between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad, President Nechirvan Barzani stated,

“We are hopeful, and based on what I observed from the Prime Minister in Baghdad, all parties are eager to resolve this issue. Our utmost efforts are directed towards finding a lawful solution to this matter.”

Regarding the decision made by the Iraqi Government to allocate funds to the Kurdistan Region, and the possibility of resuming Kurdistan Region’s oil exports, President Nechirvan Barzani commented,

“During our discussions with the Prime Minister and the Oil Minister, we addressed the matter of resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. We are hopeful that this issue will be resolved in the near future. Although I cannot provide a specific timeline, I believe progress is being made towards finding a solution. As I stated earlier, the public employees of the Kurdistan Region are completely within their rights to demand their salaries. We are optimistic that today’s decision by the Council of Ministers will mark the beginning of the end for this issue.”

When asked about the process of selecting the next Governor of Kirkuk, President Nechirvan Barzani said,

“Once the results are announced and all complaints are investigated, then of course negotiations will start. Speaking as the KDP, we will engage in discussions with the PUK with the aim of reaching an understanding, both in Kirkuk and Mosul, that serves the best interests of the people of Kurdistan. Thank you for your attention.”

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