19 February 2013, 19:22

60 years on, Kurdish President follows in father's footsteps to Moscow - interview

60 years on, Kurdish President follows in father's footsteps to Moscow - interview

On February 19 Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, began his visit to Russia. Falah Mustafa, the foreign minister for the Regional Government of Kurdistan, talks to the Voice of Russia about the underlying purpose of the visit.

- Mr. Mustafa, this is the president of Iraqi Kurdistan's first official visit to Russia. There is no doubt that it is a great event for Russia-Kurdistan relations. How much importance is attached to the visit in Iraqi Kurdistan?

- Yes, this really is the first official visit by the Iraqi Kurdistan president to Russia. Its purpose is the further development of bilateral relations for both sides. In light of the friendly relations, which historically have evolved between the Kurdish and Russian peoples, we believe that this visit will have a great impact, in terms of giving our relations additional impetus. Besides the strengthening of political ties, special attention will be paid to the development of economic and trade relations. One must point out that a number of Russian companies are already actively working in Kurdistan, but there is a lot of room for development.

One must also mention separately our successful cooperation in the areas of science and education. All this taken together, sets a firm basis for the development of relations in economics, trade, culture and education.

- All Kurdish people know the story of legendary Kurdish movement hero, Mustafa Barzani, who, 60 years ago knocked on the gates of the Moscow Kremlin's Spassky Tower with the words "This is the Kurdish people knocking". Now his son has arrived in Moscow, as president of Iraqi Kurdistan. What do ties with Russia mean to the Kurdish people?

- That story from the life of our legendary leader Mustafa Barzani that you mentioned illustrates the long history of the Kurdish people's struggle for international acknowledgement. The fact that now, the president of Kurdistan has arrived in Russia on an official visit proves how far forward we have moved.

As far as the level of relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Russia goes, we are very happy with it. Russia was the first state to opened a consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan. Russia has always paid special attention to developing our relations. The visits by Russian representatives to Iraqi Kurdistan and the current visit by a Kurdish delegation, headed by our president Massoud Barzani, are all aimed at the same thing; to strengthen our cooperation even further.

- Besides bi-lateral topics, international and regional issues will definitely be discussed at the talks in Moscow. The region is far from peaceful, including the Kurdish settlement areas and particularly, there are concerns over Syria. What message would president Massoud Barzani like to give in that regard to Russia's leadership? What do the Kurds expect from Russia?

- There is no doubt that one of the key tasks of this visit is finding a mechanism for developing Kurdish-Russian relations in the international arena as a whole. This is the first thing. Secondly, we are definitely very worried by the situation in the region. This concerns not only Syria, but also the present political situation in Iraq itself, but you are right in saying that what takes place in Syria is the most worrisome. Syria is important for the Iraqi Kurds for two reasons. Firstly, the Syrians are our neighbours, and we are not indifferent to what happens there. Secondly, a great number of Kurdish people live in Syria. President Barzani's position on that issue is well known and is clear. Our goal is to have the Kurdish people in Syria preserve their unity and gain the ability to realise their legal rights within the Syrian state. We are for the termination of violence and bloodshed in Syria; we are for democratic changes in that country achieved exclusively through peaceful means.

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