Skip to content


Personal tools
You are here: Home » News » TALABANI: Visit of Barzani to White House is recognition of identity of Iraqi Kurdistan

TALABANI: Visit of Barzani to White House is recognition of identity of Iraqi Kurdistan

Document Actions


Talabani in an Interview with The New Anatolian ylnur Çevik

CEVIK: The constitutional referendum is over. What is the significance of this referendum for Iraq, and do you believe it will bring stability to Iraq?

TALABANI: I think the constitution has been adopted through the referendum. The constitution is important for the Iraqi state. It will help to recreate the Iraqi state, the Iraqi parliament, the system of government and all departments of the new Iraq. Also it has defined the democratic rights and freedoms of all the Iraqi people. It also guarantees the federation for Iraqi Kurdistan and it also guarantees the rights of the other governorates to be more active and capable to deal with their own problems. The referendum was like a battle against terrorism. The conservatives called for a boycott and tried to prevent people from voting, but a great majority, more than the people in the last elections, participated in this referendum. Compared to other countries like Lebanon and Egypt you will see that the participation rate was much higher than the elections held in these places.

CEVIK: Mr. President, before the elections we observed that you and Massoud Barzani were involved in a major mediation effort to bridge the gaps between the Sunni and Shiite Arabs. We also observed that you made some sacrifices. Do you think the Sunnis and the Shiites made similar sacrifices?

TALABANI: If I must be honest with you, the Shiites did make some kind of sacrifices. But the Sunni extremists refused all kinds of compromise. Those people who were called to represent the Sunnis were not really the representatives of the Sunnis. They represented a group of Sunnis who are most extremist. And when the Islamic Party of Iraq which was a part of this delegation became moderate and tried to accept the constitutional draft after we agreed to all their demands and all the amendments they wanted, the extremists even attacked the Islamic Party. The extremist Sunni Arabs did not make sacrifices and they refused all kinds of compromise.

CEVIK: When you look at all these events, do you think there is anger among the Kurdish people that the Kurds and the Shiites are making all these efforts and the Sunnis remain so uncompromising?

TALABANI: I can't say there is anger but I can say there is dissatisfaction. The Kurds are dissatisfied with what has happened. They say we have sacrificed too much. We asked for many rights in the beginning but then we did not insist on them later, while the Sunnis did nothing for a compromise.

CEVIK: A high-powered delegation from the Kurdistan region of Iraq will be visiting Washington this week. What is the significance of this visit?

TALABANI: First of all this is the first time in history that the president of the United States is inviting the president of the Kurdistan region. This is the first that that such a kind of contact on this high level will happen between the U.S. and Iraqi Kurdistan. The visit is also important because the Kurdistan delegation will be received by the president and high personalities in the name of Iraqi Kurdistan. This is a kind of recognition for the identity of Iraqi Kurdistan by the U.S. within the framework of Iraq. I have to emphasize this, that the U.S. always repeats that it recognizes Iraqi Kurdistan within the framework of Iraq.

CEVIK: What do you expect out of this visit?

TALABANI: I expect better understanding between the Kurds and the U.S. I think the U.S. will advise Kurds to be more concerned about the unity of Iraq. They will ask the Kurds to pay attention to the unity of Iraq. They will ask them to play their role of mediation between the Sunnis and the Shiites and do their balancing act in Iraqi society. At the same time they will encourage the Kurds to remain faithful to democracy and oppose all kinds of extremism, including religious extremism and ultra-nationalism.

CEVIK: The announcement of the new joint cabinet of the Kurdistan region has been delayed for several months. You recently met with Massoud Barzani to end the political impasse. We are told there was general disagreement over the duration of the government and how long the rotating prime ministers would serve. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Barzani wanted regional parliamentary elections scheduled after two years to be delayed and thus allow the cabinet to remain in office more, so that this would give a chance for the prime ministers of both sides to serve more in a rotating system. Is there a compromise and will there be more delays in announcing a joint government?

TALABANI: I don't know. We (as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK) gave a very reasonable proposal to Mr. Barzani and his leadership and they promised that they would try to convince the other politburo members of the KDP to accept our proposals. I am waiting for their decision.

CEVIK: Do you expect a government to be formed soon?

TALABANI: If they agree to the reasonable proposals we submitted it will be possible.

CEVIK: What is the main problem stalling the formation of the joint government?

TALABANI: There was no major problem. Only the duration of the government is an issue. The problem was the KDP demanded to extend the term of office of the regional parliament by delaying parliamentary elections that are scheduled two years later. But this is not a democratic solution. Can your Parliament in Turkey, where the Justice and Development (AK) Party has a commanding majority, decide to extend its own term of office by delaying elections for a year or more? It is anti-democratic and it is against the law. It is anti-democratic because the citizens elected this parliament for a limited period of time. (It's like) 'Today I will elect Mr. Ilnur Cevik to the parliament but if I see him as incapable I will elect someone else when his term of office expires.' Extending the term of office of the parliament is against the law. For this reason we cannot say let us serve more. We have to set a good example for democratic rule in Iraq. So extension is not a democratic option. We say, let us divide the period that is left for the term of office of the parliament into two. Let the representative of the KDP serve as prime minister in the first period and let the PUK representative be prime minister in the second half. We hope they will agree to this.

CEVIK: Now I'd like to come to Iraq's relations with its neighbors. Are you satisfied that your neighbors are doing enough to doing enough to contain terrorism in Iraq? 

TALABANI: Let me be very frank with you. We have good relations with Iran. We have good relations with Turkey. We have good relations with Kuwait and Jordan. Our relations with Syria and Saudi Arabia are not at the level we desire. We have difficulties with both of them. We have to go to them, we have to talk to them and reach agreements to build good ties with them. Both countries are very important to us. We want to solve our problems and misunderstandings with them through direct dialogue within the framework of brotherhood.

CEVIK: Let's talk about Iraq's relations with Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently made a statement saying Turkey's patience is running out because Iraq isn't doing enough to bring the PKK terrorists down from the mountains of northern Iraq. Do you see any solution to this problem in the near future?

TALABANI: It is possible to bring down the PKK from the mountains if there is a general amnesty in Turkey. It will also be helpful if there is some kind of a cooperation between Turkey, the Iraqi government, the PUK and the KDP over the issue. It will be impossible to solve the issue by using force. The Iraqi army is not yet able to do this. If we push the PKK too far perhaps they will start cooperating with terrorists in Iraq like al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam and (Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi and will bring more trouble to all of us. For that we think that a political solution is the best way to bring them back down from the mountains and end their so-called armed struggle.

CEVIK: Do you think the Americans will raise the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) issue with the Kurdistan delegation that will be visiting Washington this week?

TALABANI: I think so because the Americans are very much concerned about the PKK presence in Iraq and want to solve this problem. They are taking into consideration Turkish demands on the issue very seriously and raising the issue with us at every occasion.

CEVIK: Are you satisfied with the kind of dialogue between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish leaders?

TALABANI: I am satisfied. The PUK has very good relations with Turkey. I think the KDP will also have better dialogue with Turks. For that there will be improvement in relations between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds.

CEVIK: Do you see better relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan region of Iraq?

TALABANI: When 'Sayin Erdogan' is in power I hope that relations will be better. I believe in this period ties will be strengthened and expanded as much as possible.

CEVIK: Will you be visiting Turkey to help this process?

TALABANI: I hope to have the chance to visit Turkey.

CEVIK: What do you see as the main obstacle for the restoration of stability in Iraq?

TALABANI: The main obstacle on the way to stability is al-Qaeda, Ansar ul Islam and the Zarqawi group. Those criminals who came from the outside have declared a war of annihilation against the Shiites and the Kurds. So they are not a resistance movement against the occupation forces or the Americans. They are against the Iraqi people. Then you have the other groups who support violence who are from the inside. You have some Sunnis who are not connected with Zarqawi. The problem with them can be solved through dialogue, listening to their just demands and declaring an amnesty. But it is not so easy to reach any agreement with the pro-Saddam elements. We feel they will be gradually isolated as the Iraqi people are fed up with their criminal acts. In many places people are ready to take up arms against them with the help of the Iraqi military forces. For example, in Tal Afar after the city was liberated from the terrorists 1,000 people of the city wanted to enlist as policemen to protect their own city, and the Iraqi government agreed.

CEVIK: Are you satisfied with your relations with the Turkmens?

TALABANI: Fifty-fifty. We have good relations with the Shiite Turkmens. We have good relations with some of the Sunni Turkmens. But unfortunately we do not have good relations with the Turkmen Front. Although we have tried so much to improve our relations with them we were unsuccessful.

CEVIK: What do you think the problem was?

TALABANI: I think it was extremism. Some leaders in the Turkmen Front are extremists. They are always exaggerating. They say there are 4.5 million Turkmens in Iraq. The elections showed this was not true. They are saying Kurds brought 250,000 Kurds from other parts of Kurdistan to Kirkuk to increase the Kurdish population. This kind of attitude is preventing improvement of relations with the Kurds. We hope the Turkmen Front becomes more reasonable and more realistic.

CEVIK: Finally we have Kirkuk. How do we solve the Kirkuk issue?

TALABANI: We can turn this city into a city of brotherhood between Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs who always lived there. The city should be ruled by the Kirkukis. The future of Kirkuk will be decided according to article 58 of the constitution. It means after two years we will ask the people of Kirkuk what they want.

CEVIK: And if they say they want to be a part of the Kurdish federation?

TALABANI: They are welcome.

CEVIK: But who will actually run the city?

TALABANI: The city will be run by the people of Kirkuk like the governorates of Sulaimaniyah and Duhok. The representatives of Turkmens and Arabs must be represented in the regional administration. They should be named as ministers and also be elected to the regional parliament.

Created by keza
Last modified 2005-10-28 07:20 AM

Powered by Plone

This site conforms to the following standards: