Invest In Group talks to President Masoud Barzani about the Kurdistan Region’s cooperation with the international community, new regional challenges, and Kurdistan’s most significant achievements in recent years.
How would you characterize the Kurdistan Region’s diplomatic and security cooperation with the international community against the ISIS threat?
The ISIS terrorist group possesses the armaments and capabilities of two states, and it has a large number of foreign fighters from across the world. It stands against all human values, principles, and coexistence. This terror group is a threat not only to us, but to the whole world. It is therefore incumbent on all sides to cooperate and collectively stand against this terrorist group. We greatly appreciate international coalition support and airstrikes, which have tipped the balance in favor of Kurdistan Peshmerga forces.
We are also grateful for the military aid that we have received from international collation countries. However, these arms and munitions are not sufficient to counter the threat posed by ISIS, which owns the advanced weapons of two states. As a result of the military sanctions by Baghdad in the past, the Peshmerga have had to fight with outdated and light weapons.
The international coalition decided to support Kurdistan because it is the only place in the region that upholds freedom, peaceful coexistence, and plurality. They also recognized the grave threat posed by ISIS terror to themselves and to world peace in general.
Domestic stability and security are key demands for foreign investors. Against a backdrop of new regional challenges, how do you respond to this sensitivity?
Kurdistan is a rich country, and its people desire peace, stability, and peaceful co-existence. These are key requisites for development and for creating a favorable environment for foreign investment. It is true that the aggression by ISIS terrorists against Kurdistan initially led to concerns and uncertainty, but thanks to the brave Peshmerga – and with the help of international collation friends – ISIS no longer poses a serious or direct threat to Kurdistan. ISIS has no future, and it will be completely defeated. The Peshmerga have demonstrated that it can be defeated.
Business and investment are long-term processes, and I believe Kurdistan has all the ingredients necessary to attract foreign investment. I would like to reassure everyone that there will be no place for terrorists to operate in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan is hosting and protecting close to two million IDPs and refugees from Syria. Kurdistan has hosted numerous world leaders and senior foreign diplomats in recent weeks and months. Kurdistan has hosted a number of international conferences and exhibitions recently. Kurdistan’s security services are doing an excellent job and working day and night to provide security. These are all indications that security and stability will prevail in Kurdistan.
Do you expect to have more stable relations with the federal government in 2015 and beyond?
I believe that the recent agreement is a good start and a good first step towards resolving the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. The mistakes of the previous government must be redressed. Iraq is experiencing serious security and economic challenges, including the threat by terrorism. Corruption and declining oil prices have led to major economic problems. Iraq needs to work with the Kurdistan Region and take into consideration Kurdistan’s demands.
What is your outlook on Kurdistan’s regional position, both economically and diplomatically, in the upcoming years?
Economic development and the building of diplomatic relations of Kurdistan will continue unabated. For this, Kurdistan must continue with its attractive investment policy, and it must also work to strengthen its industries.
Kurdistan has demonstrated that it is a force for stability in the region, as attested by many world political and economic leaders. It has also espoused a successful foreign policy. In addition, Kurdistan has been able to put a stop to the advances of the ISIS terrorist group. Kurdistan is confronting this terror group on the ground, on behalf of the whole world. While doing this on the one hand, and grappling with budget cuts by Baghdad on the other, Kurdistan welcomed hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees fleeing violence and terrorism in other parts of Iraq and Syria. Kurdistan has a message of peace, coexistence, and cooperation for the world. It respects the values of democracy, human rights, and openness. It is also a rich source of oil and gas. These are major achievements that have helped, and will continue to help, Kurdistan’s rising political and diplomatic standing in the world.
Looking back over the years you have served as the President, what developments are you most proud of? What might be regarded as Kurdistan’s most significant achievement since you took office?
I will leave to others to judge my presidency. Our achievements are the result of the struggle of the people of Kurdistan and the constant efforts of all the institutions of the Region. There are many achievements. Despite many challenges, Kurdistan has succeeded in defending its values and has developed its new democracy. Kurdistan has significantly enhanced its diplomatic standing. The economic boom, rising per capita income, a sound oil policy, and the creation of an attractive investment environment are all impressive successes. I believe that one of the major achievements has been that the people of Kurdistan have developed a sense of self-belief and a spirit of confronting challenges. Our people have also shown that not only they are not a threat, but they are a force for stability in the region. We are all witnessing how Kurdistan has hosted hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees, and how it is at the forefront of the fight against the terrorists. The free world is looking to Kurdistan and the brave Peshmerga now; we are proud of this achievement.
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