Kurdistan Minister: ‘We have not been treated as full-time Iraqis’
By Harvey Morris
“Federalism needs both sides,” said Falah Mustafa. “We need to be seen as partners, not as second-class citizens.”.
LONDON – Iraq must become a confederation of equal partners if it is to survive within its present borders, Falah Mustafa, the foreign relations minister of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said on Wednesday.
“We call for a confederal state within the current state of Iraq, which would be the only way of Iraq remaining as it is,” Mustafa told an audience during a visit to London.
Underlining the frustration of the Kurdish leadership with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, he accused Baghdad of failing to respect the federal nature of the constitution and of attempting to concentrate all power in its own hands.
“Federalism needs both sides,” he said. “We need to be seen as partners, not as second-class citizens.”
Mustafa was in London this week to attend a commemoration of the anniversary of the Baathist regime’s genocidal Anfal Campaign. He was speaking on Wednesday in the British parliament building to an audience that included politicians from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan.
The minister told them that, more than a decade after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the faces in Baghdad might have changed but the mentality remained the same. “We don’t have a proper government in Baghdad. It’s a failed state that doesn’t let us be part of the country,” he said.
He said forthcoming national parliamentary elections would be crucial in determining the future political direction in Baghdad after a period of deteriorating relations between the KRG and the central government over economic, budgetary and security issues.
The KRG leadership had not been calling for political independence, he said, but for economic independence. Ahead of this month’s elections, “we don’t want to give anyone any alibi or excuse to call us separatists.”
Mustafa expressed disappointment at the attitude of the international community which had urged the KRG to reach a settlement in its dispute with Baghdad. “They should put pressure on Baghdad for once,” he said.
“We have not been treated as full-time Iraqis,” he said. “They exclude the Kurdistan Region in all their calculations.”
Noting that Iraq was an artificial state from its creation, he said Kurds had reached the stage where they were being forced to reconsider their relations with Baghdad.
He acknowledged that Kurds served in senior positions in the Iraqi state, including as government ministers. However, he added: “Having a cabinet minister or two is one thing, but we want a part in the decision-making process.”
The Kurdistan Region had come too far to make a U-turn, he said, insisting on the need to abide by a genuine federal system. However, he accused Baghdad of pursuing “the logic of the majority and the minority, not the logic of partnership.”
“Those in Baghdad are not happy with what they see in Kurdistan,” he said. “They want to stop the progress in Kurdistan.”
Ultimately it was for the Kurds to decide their own future, Mustafa said. “We don’t believe we need another Anfal in order to decide.”