Kurdistan President Barzani hails 'new beginning' after Tehran visit

Iran has long accused Iraqi Kurdistan of harbouring dissidents

Nechirvan Barzani, left, President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, meets his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Reuters
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Nechirvan Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, has described his two-day trip to Tehran as a “new beginning” in relations with Iran.

The visit is the first for a senior Kurdish official since the strike by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on a house in Kurdistan's capital, Erbil, which the IRGC suspected was being used by as an office by Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency. Five civilians, including two children, were killed in the missile attack, Iraqi Kurdish officials said.

“We believe that this visit is a new beginning to the Kurdistan Region’s relations with Iran," Mr Barzani said on Tuesday, according to Kurdish media outlet Rudaw.

The visit, which began on Monday, focused on assuaging Tehran's security concerns linked to the presence of Iranian Kurdish dissident groups in Iraq and fostering bilateral ties.

Mr Barzani led a high-level delegation, including Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed and several senior officials.

Iran has long accused Iraqi Kurds, who run a three-province region in country’s north, of harbouring Iranian Kurdish opposition groups as well as Mossad spy centres. The Kurds have denied any presence of Mossad and have tried to restrict movement of the Kurdish opposition groups.

The Kurdish President acknowledged there are issues both sides are attempting to resolve.

“We saw a strong will from this trip to resolve the issues that exist between us," he said.

He assured Tehran that Kurdistan “cannot and should not be a source of threat to neighbours”, describing Iran as an “important neighbour”.

“Armed groups should not exist in the Kurdistan Region and they should not come into Iran, carry out armed activities and return to the Kurdistan Region. This is unacceptable," he added.

Mr Barzani met Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and many other high-ranking officials.

During the meeting with Mr Raisi, both “emphasised the significance of strengthening the ties between Iran, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, based on the principles of good neighbourliness, shared interests”, said a statement from Mr Barzani’s office. They also discussed ways to boost trade and economic relations.

Mr Raisi stressed on the importance of “preventing the Zionists and anti-[Islamic] Revolution elements from using Kurdistan Region [to launch attacks] against Iraq”, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

In March last year, Iraq and Iran signed a security agreement to secure the shared borders and disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition groups.

In September, Baghdad announced it had disarmed and moved the camps of armed Iranian Kurdish opposition groups away from the border with Iran and deeper into its own territory.

The Kurdish region has for decades hosted camps and rear bases run by Kurdish dissident groups from Turkey and Iran.

They include the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is based in Turkey but also operates in Iraq. It has been designated a terrorist group by the US and the EU. The main Iranian groups are the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, known by its Kurdish acronym PJAK, and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

The presence of these groups in northern Iraq has been a source of tension between Baghdad and its neighbours.

Iran and Turkey have carried out repeated attacks on the Kurdish opposition groups, accusing them of destabilising their security, and have repeatedly called on Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government to disarm and expel them.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 1:46 PM