By Fehim Tastekin for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While Turkey was eagerly anticipating a new government in Baghdad to sort out many problems with Iraq, a last minute decision by the outgoing prime minister has added a fresh item to the list of ongoing disagreements between the two countries.

Haider al-Abadi unexpectedly signed a decree to set up three new checkpoints in government-controlled areas in northern Iraq that will effectively slash Turkey’s trade with it.

The trucks that enter the country normally pass through the sole border crossing that is controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and will now also have to pass at least one of these additional checkpoints.

Click here to read the full story.

Survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) can now dial “119” to receive support, counselling, and referrals to community-based services and resources in the region.

On 26 September, UNFPA and the General Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women (GDCVAW) in KRI launched the first helpline for gender-based violence survivors.

The Helpline is a 24-hour call centre established to provide confidential support and guidance to survivors of GBV. Callers will be connected with trained social workers as well as legal and psycho-social support counsellors, both female and male.

UNFPA also organised two trainings for GDCVAW social workers and phone operators on the helpline procedures and guidelines for answering, probing, supporting, and following up on calls received at the call centre.

“The Helpline initiative will enable GDCVAW trained operators to provide counselling, advice, and support to GBV survivors and vulnerable individuals in the Kurdistan region of Iraq”, said Mr Kareem Sinjari, Minister of Interior in KRI.

Mr Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, emphasized the importance of this project:

“While remedial services require strengthening to ensure the best possible care for GBV survivors, the helpline is definitely a positive step forward in that direction. We are confident that the helpline 119 is a solid tool that will help the Government in its efforts to combat gender-based violence and support survivors.”

The project, supported by the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), is expected to reach more than 3,600 survivors in the first year of its operations.

(Source: UN)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the 150-meter ring road project of the city of Erbil.

In a speech during the ceremony, Prime Minister Barzani said:

“The 150-metre road project is one of many projects which were prepared for implementation by the Kurdistan Regional Government. If it had not been for hardships faced since 2014, the KRG would have completed many similar projects in all major communities of the Kurdistan Region.”

Below is the text of Prime Minister Barzani’s speech:

Good morning,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we participate in this ground-breaking ceremony to open the Erbil City 150-meter ring road, I am delighted to meet with you again. This project is good not only for Erbil, it will facilitate road transport throughout the Kurdistan Region by reducing congestion on routes within and through the Erbil City area.

As the capital city in the center of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil is situated on many routes that connect international border entry points with the rest of Iraq, and also connects neighbouring countries with each other. Important trade routes pass between Syria, Turkey, and Iran through the Kurdistan Region.

This project will generate more fast-flowing traffic and exceed the success of the Erbil 120-metre road. As a tangible solution, the Erbil City 120-metre road has been very effective in reducing traffic congestion.

The first stage of the implementation of this 150-meter road project, includes the part which will run from Koya road to Bahirka road, 14 kilometres long and estimated to cost 131 million US dollars.

The Hemin Group will finance and implement this project with deferred payment. It will be a high-speed road with a service road alongside it. There will be three bridges and three underpasses with related high-standard equipment.

The Hemin Group will also be implementing a dual carriageway14 kilometres long between Erbil City and Gopal.
Yesterday also we participated in the ground-breaking ceremony of a project that connects Erbil and Duhok with a dual-carriageway.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 150-metre road project is one of many projects which were prepared for implementation by the Kurdistan Regional Government. If it had not been for hardships faced since 2014, the KRG would have completed many similar projects in all major communities of the Kurdistan Region.

Adversaries of the Kurdistan Region were unable to accept the progress being enjoyed by the people of the Region, did not, and do not, want to see a well-built and lively region filled with peace and security. They did their best to obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s wheel of success.

Cutting the Kurdistan Region’s budget and ISIS threatening the Region with terrorism did not randomly occur. They were considered and planned. The war against ISIS brought nearly two million displaced persons. But the most damaging factor that adversely affected the people of the Kurdistan Region was the fall in global oil prices.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If it were not for the perseverance and courage of the Peshmerga, security personnel, understanding and support of the people of our Region, including our government employees, no government anywhere in the world would have withstood such crises during the past five years! What government has withstood war in the midst of such severe political and financial challenges, and all the domestic issues that have been crippling the Kurdistan Region and its government?

Now, strengthened by the support of the Kurdistan people and by the determination, loyalty, and selflessness of the Peshmerga, and the sacrifice and endurance of all the hardships the government employees have gone through during past few years, the bad days are almost over. As part of our long-term mission, we as the Kurdistan Regional Government will continue to act on our original main responsibility, which is to provide public services. To further develop our country, we continue to implement development projects that we planned.

Despite all shortcomings, constructive criticism, and even destructive criticism that have been and will be directed at the KRG due to political competition, the KRG has always been providing the best possible services.
If any citizen from the Kurdistan Region or any foreign observer looks back at the past 15 years, she or he will realize the truth that in spite of all challenges, the KRG has made remarkable progress in all sectors.
It is correct that the expectations of the KRG and the people of Kurdistan were higher than what has been achieved. We cannot overlook, however, the fact that over 15 years of the KRG’s leadership the Kurdistan Region has achieved a total makeover in almost all aspects.

Hundreds of completed projects vouch for the efforts of the KRG having contributed to the infrastructure of the country, such as roads and bridges, water and sewer systems, hospitals and schools, spatial development of cities and towns, and reviving livelihoods of many thousands of citizens of Kurdistan in many hundreds of communities, attracting foreign investment and opening of many malls, hotels, restaurants and cafes, building small and large factories, and dozens of other projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In ceremonies like this the intention is not to brag about achievements but to reaffirm that the first and foremost responsibility of the KRG is to serve its people, confirm such responsibility is taken seriously at every opportunity, and that the KRG seeks to realize the goals of stability, progress, and a high standard of living for all citizens.

As we participate in this groundbreaking ceremony, we reiterate the objective of the KRG that along with every step toward a stable economy, the government will take similar steps to implement plans to develop all sectors in all parts of the Kurdistan Region.

As we approach a general election, the people of the Kurdistan Region will cast their ballots. I urge all citizens of the Kurdistan Region to participate in the election process in a civilized way and elect their representatives to the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government for the next four years. This process is very important for the present and future of the Kurdistan Region. Let us all vote to serve, build, and develop Kurdistan.

We look forward to the next phase to serve the people, promote stability, and build a durable economy with a better living standard for our people. We are sure that the worst days are over, and tomorrow will be better than today.

In the end, I would like to especially applaud Mr. Khalid Khoshnaw, the head of the Hemin Group and his colleagues for all the good work they have produced in various parts of the Kurdistan Region on long-term relaxed loans. This reflects his unshakable trust in the KRG.

He is the ultimate example of a loyal patriot and citizen. I wish to see more people like him and I wish him all success. We truly need people like him in the Kurdistan Region who always look to serve their nation to make progress in every field and build their country.

By that, they will forever leave their positive footprint on the future of Kurdistan.

I look forward to meet you all again in another location of the Kurdistan Region and at another project.

Thank you.

(Source: KRG)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani opened Zakho Tunnel in a ceremony attended by cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, the Republic of Turkey’s Consul General to the Kurdistan Region, and a number of KRG officials.

In a speech during the ceremony, Prime Minister Barzani said:

“Opening of this tunnel on this important international highway that links the Kurdistan Region and Iraq with Turkey is providing a major strategic service. The tunnel is a major development for local citizens and trade between Turkey, the Kurdistan Region, and Iraq.”

The Zakho Tunnel is 3600 meters long costing the Kurdistan Regional Government 143 million dollars. The KRG Ministry of Construction & Housing, Duhok Directorate of Roads and Bridges, and the Limak and Man Group construction companies were involved in completing the project.

Prime Minister Barzani said:

“Completion of this project is a major step in the Kurdistan Region that shows we are on the right track moving towards a better future for our citizens. This shows the will and capacity of the KRG to advance and serve the people. This is the mandate of steadfast people of the Region for the KRG to stand tall and not fall.”

Despite the difficult economic situation in the past four years, the KRG exerted great efforts to effectively complete some of the planned strategic projects.

(Source: KRG)

Police officers in Garmiyan [Garmian] Administration have completed a two-day training course organized by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office (HRO) on core human rights principles relating to police work.

The training course on 18 and 19 September, entitled “Rights of Persons Under Investigation,” was part of a series of activities by UNAMI HRO to support regional institutions and civil society organizations in protecting and promoting human rights in the Kurdistan Region.

The course was attended by 21 officers from the Kalar Directorate of Police and Assayish (Security) and directorates of police in the surrounding districts like Kifri, Darbandkihan and Rizgari within Garmiyan Administration.

The training course examined general principles and concepts of human rights law, including United Nations reporting and review mechanisms and state obligations. It also addressed the rights of detained persons under international, Iraqi, and Kurdistan Regional law, and the role of police in protecting the rights of freedom of expression and assembly.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Nedim Osmanagic of the UNAMI Human Rights Office, expressed the hope that the training course would help participants to see human rights law as a tool, and the United Nations as a partner, to perform their important work to the highest standards.

At the end of the course HRO distributed the Human Rights Booklet on the Core 9 international human rights treaties among the participants.

(Source: UNAMI)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received the new Consul General of Germany to the Kurdistan Region, Ms. Barbara Wolf and her accompanying delegation.

In the meeting, which was also attended by Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative in Germany, Mr. Dilshad Barzani, Consul General Wolf thanked the KRG for its assistance to the German Consulate General in Erbil.

She stressed further developing bilateral relations and cooperation with the Kurdistan Region. She reiterated the continuation of humanitarian and military assistance, provided by Germany to the Kurdistan Region. She also stressed encouraging German companies to invest in the Region.

Prime Minister Barzani congratulated Consul General Wolf for her new position and wished her success in her duties. He thanked the German government for its humanitarian and military support to the Kurdistan Region, particularly in the field of the reform of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. He expressed his government’s desire to further strengthening bilateral relations.

The formation of the new Iraqi government and the developments in the wider region were also discussed in the meeting.

(Source: KRG)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani chaired the 49th regular session of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday. It was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.

Prime Minister Barzani briefed the Council about his recent visit to Baghdad and meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He said, they agreed to continue dialogue and coordination and demanded implementation of the Iraqi Council of Representatives decision to unify salaries and privileges of the families of the martyrs and Anfal victims in the Region with those of their counterparts in the federal government. They also discussed reopening the Erbil-Kirkuk road and the readiness of the KRG to export Kirkuk oil.

Regarding the new Iraqi government, Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the KRG has no veto against anyone. While protecting common interests, he said what is important to the Kurdistan Region is the new government’s programme that would help to materialize the rights and the constitutional authorities of the Kurdistan Region.

Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs Mahmood Haji Salih and Secretary of the Council of Ministers Dr. Amanj Rahim presented a report on the latest developments in the effort towards international recognition of the crimes committed by ISIS against Yezidis and other ethnic and religious communities as genocide, and on UN Security Council’s Resolution 2379 to form a team to investigate this situation.

The Council of Ministers affirmed the Security Council Resolution to be an important step towards recognizing these crimes as genocide. The Council of Ministers assigned the High Commission on Recognition of ISIS Crimes as Genocide to coordinate with the international team.

Prime Minister Barzani instructed the commission to deliver to the UN team all evidence collected during the past four years about crimes against humanity and acts of genocide directed at Yezidis, Christians, and all other communities to apply justice to perpetrators to the full extent of the law and to compensate the victims and their families.

The Council of Ministers called on the Iraqi federal government to take into account the involvement of legal practitioners, experts, and other representatives of the Kurdistan Region in the implementation of the Security Council Resolution.

The Council of Ministers re-emphasized its policy that protects religious rights and freedoms as basic principles of human rights, believes a nation’s strength lies in its diversity, and that the KRG will continue to endeavor to make the Kurdistan Region a safe place for all members of society.

2019 budget draft

The Council of Ministers also discussed the 2019 budget draft. KRG Minister of Finance and Economy, Rebaz Hamlan, presented a report on the 2019 budget draft, a process suspended since 2014 due to the financial crisis. He informed about steps being taken to estimate general revenues and expenditures in collaboration with ministries.

The Council of Ministers expressed its support and called upon all ministers to coordinate with the Ministry of Finance and Economy as well as the Ministry of Planning.

In a press conference after the meeting, Prime Minister Barzani briefed the media on latest development in the region.

Regarding reports suggesting that US Special Envoy Brett McGurk urged postponement of the September 30th Kurdistan election, Prime Minister Barzani stated, “There is nothing like that. He hasn’t discussed this issue with us. What has been discussed is whether elections will be held or not. Yes, they will be held on time. No talk of postponing elections by Mr. Brett McGurk with us has happened. Up to the moment, no political party in Kurdistan Region has asked that the September 30th elections be postponed. If I speak as the KDP, we from the Kurdistan Democratic Party emphasize that elections need to be held at their scheduled time.”

About negotiations with Baghdad on various issues, Prime Minister Barzani said, “There are some principles important in negotiations with Baghdad. It is very important for the people of Kurdistan and for all parties to jointly participate in this process. Serious talks will begin after manual vote counting is concluded and the results are officially confirmed and announced by the Iraqi Federal Court.

Regarding trade between the Kurdistan Region and Islamic Republic of Iran after the sanctions were reimposed on Iran by the US Government, Prime Minister Barzani said, “Until now, the sanctions are not clear to us. But certainly, the Kurdistan Region will take steps within the framework and position of Iraq. We asked the US and talked with Baghdad to make it clear to us. We asked and await the US to send a delegation to explain what exactly should and should not be done.”

Regarding the Rosneft agreement and any tension with Baghdad, he said, “What we have done with Rosneft is a commercial matter. Our contracts are within the framework of the Iraqi Constitution.” He also said, “Now that Baghdad can’t practically export Kirkuk oil, which is about 250 to 300 thousand barrels per day, we have told them we are ready to facilitate export to Ceyhan port where Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization, SOMO, can sell the oil and, of course, all revenue will be for all Iraq.

(Source: KRG)

The Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, received the Netherlands new Consul General to the Kurdistan Region, Mr. Willem Consijn and his accompanying delegation.

Consul General Consijn stressed his country’s willingness to strengthen the relations with the Kurdistan Region.

Prime Minister Barzani congratulated Consul General Consijn on his new position and wished him success in his duties, assuring him of his government’s support during his mission.

He stressed Kurdistan Regional Government’s desire to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation, especially in the agriculture sector.

He also thanked the Dutch government for its humanitarian and military assistance to the Kurdistan Region, particularly in the field of the reform of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs.

Prime Minister Barzani’s recent visit to the Netherlands and his meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte was also discussed.

(Source: KRG)