Priorities for UK-Kurdistan Relations
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 28th July, 2009
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Kurdistan region of Iraq launched its latest report at the House of Commons the other day, following a visit to the region by several British parliamentarians, including LibDem peer Tim Clement-Jones. The remit of the APPG is ‘to promote friendship and understanding between the peoples of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and Great Britain and to encourage the development of democratic institutions in the Kurdistan Region as part of the democratic and federal process in the wider Iraq.’ Last week, elections took place in Kurdistan, with a high turnout. Whatever may be the aspirations of some of the disparate Kurdish groups in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, not to mention within the worldwide Kurdish diaspora, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is committed to the region’s status as an integral part of Iraq, while enjoying a considerable degree of autonomy.The British parliamentary delegation noted continuing economic development and stability in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite the fluctuation in oil prices and deteriorating relations between the KRG and Baghdad. In contrast, relations with Turkey had improved over the previous 12 months.
The APPG lamented the fact that there was only minimal representation from the KRG at a seminar on investment opportunities in Iraq put on earlier this year in London by the Department for International Development, but noted that a special event on investment in the region will take place here in September. In the meantime, the parliamentarians argued amongst other things for an opening up of the visa regime, to make it easier for businessmen and students from Kurdistan to come to the UK; for cooperation not only the oil industry but also in agriculture, which is a sector that has declined seriously over the past 20 years; for the development of tourism in Kurdistan; and for the establishment of direct flights between London and Erbil.