Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of Iraq's Kurdistan Region has consistently prioritised peaceful dialogue to resolve disputes straining the relationship between Erbil and Baghdad since taking office in 2019.
His recent visit to the Iraqi capital, accompanied by a cross-party Kurdish delegation, underscores his unwavering commitment to negotiations and the belief that equal treatment of all citizens, from Zakho to Basra, is essential for a stable and democratic Iraq.
During his visit, Mr Barzani presented a comprehensive proposal for amending existing laws and offered both long-term solutions and immediate measures to address the monthly payment of civil servants in the Kurdistan Region.
In a letter dated September 18, 2023, addressed to US President Joe Biden, Congressmen Michael Waltz, Michael McCaul and Joe Wilson urged the President to take action to halt Iraq's budgetary cuts and economic pressure on the Kurdistan Region. Subsequently, the White House welcomed a breakthrough in securing salaries for civil servants in the Kurdistan Region, emphasising Washington's ongoing commitment to promoting stability in Iraq and finding lasting solutions.
Erbil has adhered to an earlier agreement to handle its oil through Iraq's State Organisation for the Marketing of Oil (SOMO) since March this year, providing a basis for recent and future understandings on unresolved issues.
Shortly after Mr Barzani’s recent visit, the Iraqi Council of Ministers approved a monthly loan of 700 billion Iraqi dinars for the Kurdistan Region. Mr Barzani expressed gratitude to his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Shia Al Sudani for his support, with both leaders agreeing that this loan could serve as a stepping stone for resolving other disputes between Erbil and Baghdad through the constitution. The recent meetings hold promise for positive outcomes and numerous opportunities ahead.
While the Kurdistan Region is often lauded as a safe haven in a turbulent region, it has faced financial uncertainties due to budget cuts from Baghdad, which Erbil considers unconstitutional. This issue, if left unaddressed, not only jeopardises the region's stability but also undermines its critical role in combating ISIS alongside its allies and providing support to over a million refugees and displaced people, including ancient Christian communities.
The quest for common ground often emerges as an opportunity amidst the turbulent waters of international relations. In the context of Kurdistan's ongoing pursuit of stability within Iraq, a remarkable window of opportunity has arisen. Mr Barzani and Mr Al Sudani share strikingly similar visions for reform and progress. Both leaders are committed to fostering stability, economic growth and improved living standards for their constituents. This alignment of objectives offers a unique opportunity for cooperation and understanding, bridging historical divides and fostering a more cohesive Iraq. By capitalising on their common goals, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region can make significant strides towards lasting stability and prosperity within the nation.
Under Mr Barzani's leadership, the Kurdistan Region has embarked on a robust reform process. Despite financial constraints, it has achieved numerous infrastructure projects, economic diversification and digital and agricultural transformation. This demonstrates the region's determination to preserve stability, security, and co-existence – essential elements for both the Region itself and Iraq as a whole. Mr Al Sudani shares this commitment, aiming to unite Iraq through equitable development and political inclusivity. Their congruent visions provide a unique platform for collaboration, fostering a more harmonious Iraq and securing Kurdistan's continued pursuit of stability.
The Kurdistan Region's stable environment and abundant economic opportunities have positioned it as a key player in Middle East geopolitics. It has stood as a formidable force against the ISIS threat, securing its territory and contributing significantly to the wider fight against terrorism. Moreover, it has aided over a million displaced individuals, an impressive effort that comes with an annual cost of $867 million, all while maintaining a local population of merely around six million. The international community must acknowledge and support the substantial financial burden borne by the Kurdistan Region since 2012 in hosting displaced persons.
It is imperative for international stakeholders to stand in solidarity with the region as it seeks economic stability, security, and equity in its relationship with Iraq's federal government. While the country should be addressing pressing issues like climate change and regional geopolitical shifts, it is disheartening that we find ourselves mired in conversations about the very basics – issues that should have been resolved long ago.