SOURCE: Kurdistan Regional Government

February 10, 2009 16:35 ET

Carnegie Endowment Report Urges Close, Comprehensive U.S. Role in Strengthening Federalism in Iraq

Panelists Agree That Improving Turkish-KRG Relations, Settling Disputed Territories Are Imperatives

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - February 10, 2009) - The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey can find themselves cooperating on political, economic and energy issues as part of a growing relationship that will bolster regional stability, Qubad Talabani, Representative of the KRG to the U.S., told a forum examining the future of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. "There are vast energy resources in Iraqi Kurdistan that can benefit both the Kurdistan Region and Turkey," Talabani said.

Talabani was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the unveiling of its new report "Preventing Conflict over Kurdistan," authored by Henri Barkey, a senior associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program. Barkey urged a strong leading and direct role by the United States, with regards to the Kurdistan Region and its relations with Baghdad, and Turkey, in order for the U.S. to disengage from Iraq.

"A new administration has to manage the Kurdish questions as a critical element of its Iraq disengagement policy," Barkey states in the report. "Washington must pay close attention to the many intertwined dimensions of the Kurdish question." The report goes on to say that prime importance should be to strengthen Federalism in Iraq, peacefully resolve the issue of Kirkuk and other disputed territories while at the same time building on improvements in relations between the KRG and Turkey.

"Washington must develop a comprehensive approach that recognizes and, where possible, leverages those linkages to help usher in a stable and prosperous future," Barkey added. He called for a special U.S. coordinator to address the outstanding issues and break down bureaucratic barriers that currently exist within the various U.S. government agencies. Talabani noted that one year ago Turkish troops were massing on the Iraqi border, primed to invade, but today, tensions between both sides have subsided and talks between the two are ongoing. Simultaneously, Turkish businesses continue to be by far the largest investors in the Kurdistan Region -- putting Turkey in the premier spot to reap further economic gains once federalism is fully implemented in Iraq, Talabani said.

But Talabani warned that the full implementation of federalism, as outlined in the Iraqi Constitution, is the key to avoiding further instability in Iraq. "Federalism has to be more than just a concept, and must be institutionalized," Talabani stressed. "That also means complete implementation of natural resources, and revenue sharing policies, and resolving the issue of disputed territories per the constitution of the country," he added.

Talabani embraced the report's recommendation of a more intense, better coordinated U.S. role in the Kurdistan Region. He urged the U.S. to quickly elevate U.S. government operations in the Kurdistan Region to full consular status. "The (U.S.) influence in commerce and development of civil society is immeasurable," Talabani said.

(A PDF of the report can be found at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/preventing_conflict_kurdistan.pdf)

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