The event titled “The Kurdistan Region: A Strategic Ally in a Tough Neighborhood ” was chaired by Gary Kent, the Director of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Kurdistan Region.
Among the keynote speakers were British Members of Parliament Jack Lopresti and Nadhim Zahawi – the former being the new chairman of the APPG – who both described the upcoming referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region as “exciting.”
“I admire the people of Kurdistan for their courage to have the discussion, the debate, and ask the question,” Lopresti said, referring to the Sep.
25 vote on whether to remain a part of Iraq or secede to form a newly-independent state.
The British MP noted that, while he hoped the referendum would lead to an independent Kurdish state, either result would bring about change.
The result of the referendum would put pressure on the international community to at least “lead to a reset of relations between Baghdad and Erbil.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the first British MP of Kurdish descent, echoed that point.
“Regardless of the result, the future of Kurdish autonomy is optimistic,” he said.
“The ‘Yes’ vote would create momentum toward a fully independent Kurdish state.” A ‘No’ vote result would lead to “substantial devolution, compromises from Baghdad,” to calm those who would still want to fight for independence.
Still, Zahawi argued, greater autonomy should be “welcomed as a means to [generate] more stability, security and prosperity for the region.”
“The Kurdistan Region is a stronghold of liberal democracy.
Yes it has challenges, but nevertheless, it is democratic in one of the most precarious regions in the world.”
The British-Kurdish MP attributed the Kurdistan Region’s success, not only in successfully fighting back the threat of the Islamic State (IS) but also in weathering an economic crisis – which was compounded by the influx of displaced persons, low oil prices, and a drastic cut in its share of the Iraqi federal budget – to the autonomy from Baghdad it secured over the years.
Both MPs called on the international community to respect the people of the Kurdistan Region’s right to self-determination.
“It is morally the right thing to do to support the Kurdish self-determination move,” stated Lopresti.
Zahawi reiterated a point which has been trumpeted by President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani in the lead up to the referendum: “It is an inalienable right of all human beings to decide upon their own destiny.”
He asked for people to be “open minded” about the benefits a more autonomous Kurdistan Region would bring to Iraq, to Kurdistan itself and the wider region “in the wake of this historic referendum.”
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to entrench stability in the region,” Zahawi said.
Zahawi and the APPG delegation will visit Kurdistan on Sep.
25 and have announced they will observe the referendum process.
Editing by Ava Homa
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