Iraqi Kurdistan unjustifiably attacked in spillover from Gaza war, says PM

Masrour Barzani tells World Government Summit in Dubai that semi-autonomous Kurdish region is no threat to anyone

Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Region, speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday. AFP
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Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region has been “unjustifiably targeted”, said the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, after a fatal Iranian missile attack on the region last month.

“This aggression must end,” he told during the World Government Summit in Dubai. "As I have said in the past, here and in other capitals, Kurdistan has never been a threat to anyone in the region.

“We are a factor of peace and stability, and we want regional conduct to be based on mutual respect and interests."

The missile attack on Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, killed five people including businessman Peshraw Dizayee and his two children.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which oversees Tehran's militia network abroad, claimed it had hit a base hosting US military personnel and an Israeli Mossad headquarters in Erbil.

Mr Barzani, who has been Prime Minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region since 2019, rejected Tehran's claims of an Israeli spy base, as did the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

The strikes occurred amid rising tensions between the US and Iran-backed militias in the Middle East over the Israel-Gaza war. The militias have increased attacks against US and Israeli forces from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Iraq has suffered from an escalation in violence between US forces stationed in the country and Iran-backed militias since the outbreak of the war in October.

Most of the US air strikes on Iran-backed militias have taken place in central or southern Iraq but the Iranian attack on the semi-autonomous Kurdish north suggested the conflict could spread to there.

Kurdish and Palestinian struggles

Mr Barzani, a member of the pro-independence Kurdish Democratic Party, used the platform of the World Government Summit to link the Kurdish and Palestinian independence movements.

"The struggles of the past 20 years and of the decades of Kurdish resistance that foreshadowed them have enshrined for us a rightful stake as a sovereign people and an integral part of the Middle East," he said.

He described the Gaza war as "deeply troubling" and called for the "root causes of the injustice" affecting Palestinians to be addressed.

"The crisis we are witnessing in Palestine is deeply troubling for many of us for several reasons: its humanitarian toll on civilians; its capacity to fuel chaos well beyond Gaza; and because the root causes of the injustice remain unaddressed," he said.

Mr Barzani's comments came amid growing concerns that Israel is preparing to launch a major military operation in Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas and air strikes and a ground offensive have killed nearly 28,200 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The high civilian death toll and humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war have renewed international efforts to find a lasting and sustainable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including calls for a two-state solution.

Mr Barzani said the "foundational rights" of both Palestinians and Kurds should have been addressed historically.

"Had the foundational rights of the Palestinians been dealt with 80 years ago, or in the decades since, there would have been far less chance of the tragedy we are seeing now," he said.

He said the same could be said for the "plight of the Kurdish people", who "have legitimate claims towards self-determination".

"These are rights that have been acknowledged by our friends and allies, who at the same time tell us that political imperatives impede their help in delivering a historical justice," Mr Barzani said.

Updated: February 12, 2024, 8:31 PM