Kudistan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Falah- Egypt Today
CAIRO – 23 September 2017: In an exclusive interview with Egypt Today, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa said that the referendum on the independence of Kurdistan will not go against the interests of the neighboringcountries.
Speaking two days before the referendum from Erbil, the KRG foreign minister spoke to Egypt Today via email, answering controversial questions arising over the referendum scheduled on September 25, following a speech given by Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzanion Friday, stressing the referendum will be held on time on Monday despite international pressures to postpone it.
Arab League secretary general Ahmed Abul Gheit urged the President of the KRG Massoud Barzani to postpone an independence referendum slated for September 25.
Shoukry and his counterparts called on the KRG not to move forward with the scheduled September 25 referendum and embrace a process of genuine dialogue with Baghdad, stressing the integrity of Iraq and stability of Syria.
Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir was appointed as the first head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations in September 2006, tasked with administering KRG foreign policy and bolstering the region’s relations with the international community for the government’s fifth cabinet.
What is the significance of the referendum at the current stage; especially if it is approved?
The referendum is an important step to secure a better future for the people of the Kurdistan region. We have tried all the other possible ways and means to live together and coexist in the country of Iraq, but unfortunately we have failed. We have tested decentralization, autonomy, and federalization, but because we did not have partners who had the same view and understanding of power sharing and wealth sharing, the country did not go the right way. Therefore, problems and differences have remained. In order to live in peace, you need a democratic environment; in order to have a democratic environment, you need democratic practice and democratic culture.
How will you persuade Kurdistan’s powerful neighbors like Turkey and Iran to lend support to Kurdistan?
We have always wanted good neighborly relations based on mutual respect, understanding, and benefit. We are for building bridges and we can assure them that the future independent Kurdistan would be a partner and ally, and that this step will not go against the interests of these nations.
We want our neighbors and the whole world to understand that we have always stood for peace. The relations between Baghdad and Erbil have not nearly been in the best interest of either side, and therefore we cannot continue to insist on failure. We believe that our neighbors, friends and partners should not persist on a failed one-Iraq-policy. In order to prevent future confrontations, we need to address this issue now to preserve and promote stability and security.
After the independence of Kurdistan, what relations will you pursue with Baghdad?
Since we have failed to be two good partners in what was supposed to be a federal system in Iraq, we need to seek another arrangement. It will not be the end of the world when we decide that we cannot live together under one ceiling. Looking back at history, there are other nations that have accepted to be separate peacefully, through dialogue, and now they enjoy very good relations. Therefore, we believe that we need to communicate with Baghdad.We need to ensure that they understand our ambitions and plans, and that we do not want conflict, but rather open a new chapter for our relations, where we can make room for friendship and partnership. We believe that we can become better partners as two sovereign states.
It’s a fact of life that the Middle East region in the last hundred years has not seen stability and prosperity because of the wrong doings of the past, denial of identity, and lack of social justice. Today, there is an opportunity for us to be courageous and to admit that we have failed in bringing about a genuine partnership.Therefore, engaging in a serious process of negotiations and communication with Baghdad is very important, so that we communicate and prevent provocation. We want Baghdad to be our partners in addressing this issue so we can do it in such a way that we secure a long-term strong partnership with Baghdad.
How will the constitution of Kurdistan be drafted? Will common people have a say?
The draftconstitution we have for our region now is customized to a region and not an independent state.It was prepared by a committee, then it went through the parliament, and then it was supposed to be approved by the people through a referendum. We will make sure that the people of Kurdistan have a say in their future constitution of Kurdistan. The new constitution will protect the rights of all the communities living in Kurdistan, protect the rule of law, and protect democratic values.
Will all Kurdish parties accept the outcome of this referendum?
The referendum is a democratic process that is practice for self determination. All parties are obliged to respect the will of the people. There will be people who vote yes and there will be people voting no; both are acceptable in a democracy, and the majority vote needs to be respected by all components of government. Examples of recent a referendum has been the Brexit one, which resulted in a very narrow margin between the yes and no votes.
What is the new state’s political system (ex: presidential or parliamentary) and ideology (ex: religious or secular)?
The decision about the future governance structure of Kurdistan will be decided during our planning period after the referendum. The political parties, with the rest of the communities here, will work together in the establishment of a new form of governance. Most importantly, as a nation that strongly believes in democratic principles and adopts them as our core values, we will make sure that our government is a democratic and representative one. We will make sure to stand for an inclusive society adhering to rights of all of the communities in Kurdistan. Religious, cultural and educational rights of the different communities in Kurdistan will be respected. Learning from our past experiences, we want to build a society where all of the communities are equal partners.
Whether we decide to have a parliamentary, presidency or hybrid system will be dependent on our political agreements made the dayafter. Nevertheless, principles of human rights, empowerment of youth and women, protection of minorities, etc. will remain to be cornerstones for our governance. The aforementioned cornerstones, good governance and transparency, values and principles will be enshrined in our constitution.