In a Farsi interview with the Vaghaye Ettefaghieh daily newspaper, Nazem Dabbagh, the representative of Iraqi Kurdistan in Iran, highlighted Iran’s emphasis on the need to safeguard Iraq’s territorial integrity and that the Islamic Republic believes the way to settle differences between Baghdad and Irbil is through the Constitution.
He said Iran has always stood by Kurds and helped Iraq in its fight against ISIS.
“After the emergence of ISIS and its gaining control over large parts of the Iraqi territory and the Kurdistan Region, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first country to take steps to help and cooperate with Irbil. The head of the Kurdistan Region, in a special message, thanked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The reality is that the security of the Kurdistan Region is the same as Iran’s, and the security of Iran means the security of Kurdistan Region,” said Dabbagh.
Dabbagh, who has been present in Iran over the past 18 years as the envoy of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, said Iran plays a positive role in settling differences between Irbil and Baghdad.
“Disputes between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq’s central government do not belong to the present time, but have their roots in the era of former Iraqi dictator Saddm Hussein,” he said.
“But what has happened is not what we expected,” said Dabbagh.
“We established a new Iraq via cooperation, and as we are witnessing, the Peshmerga have played a key role in safeguarding Iraq’s dignity. Tehran has also played a positive role by mediating between the two sides and seeking to resolve our differences with Baghdad by referring us to the Constitution,” he added.
“On the whole, we assess Iran’s role as positive,’ he said.
He drew a comparison between Iran’s behaviour and that of Turkey toward Kurds, and then touched upon Kurds’ efforts to hold a referendum and raise the flag of the Kurdistan Region in Kirkuk as well as the reaction shown by Iraq’s neighbours.
“Iran, as a neighbour of the Kurdistan Region, has supported Kurds’ freedom-seeking movement and has cooperated with us at different junctures,” he said.
“Iran has also been the first country to back Iraq’s new national government, and has always said it loud and clear that it wants Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity protected,” he said.
Dabbagh criticized Ankara’s threatening reaction to Kurds’ demands and praised Iran’s position on the settlement of disputes between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad.
“Unlike some regional countries which threatened the Kurdistan Region regarding this issue, one can assess as positive remarks by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi, because on the one hand, he says the [Kurdistan Region’s] flag shouldn’t be hoisted in Kirkuk, and on the other, urges us to return to the negotiating table and settle our difference with a look to the Constitution,” he explained.
He said Kurds also believe if arguments concerning Article 140 of the Constitution are settled, a great number of the current differences will be resolved as well. He said the holding of a referendum is nothing strange because it is emphasized in the Iraqi Constitution that a plebiscite must be held in disputed regions.
The diplomat assessed as positive the prospects for relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Region.
“Given the cordial relations both in the past and at present, and given that we and Iran share the same cultural geography and history, I predict a positive outlook for bilateral ties,” Dabbagh noted.