KT Interview with Karwan Jamal:
Karwan Jamal is Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Relations (Deputy Minister) within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
KT: The Turkish Foreign Minister’s recent visit to Kirkuk was sharply criticized by Iraq, saying it was not conducted through official and diplomatic channels. Did your department organize his visit?
KJ: I would like to start by saying that every individual who carries a diplomatic or normal passport and has obtained a visa to enter another country legally can therefore travel across that country. The Turkish Foreign Minister obtained the visa through the Iraqi Embassy to Republic of Turkey; he asked for a visa through the normal diplomatic channels and he was granted it. This is in fact indicating that the Iraqi Embassy to Ankara and ultimately the Federal Government would have all the details of the visit.
Normally the visa application through diplomatic channel is for two purposes; one so that the Foreign Minister gets an actual visa to Iraq and secondly so that the Iraqi government is aware that the Foreign Minister is coming to Iraq and all necessary protocol arrangement will take place. As far as the Kurdistan Region is concerned we would like to reiterate that every delegation that visits Iraq has to go through this same process. The procedures and regulations used by the Turkish Foreign Minister on his recent trip were exactly the same as on his previous trips. All other senior Turkish officials who have visited the Kurdistan Region in the past have gone through the normal diplomatic channels.
The KRG Department of Foreign Relations as a diplomatic channel was aware of this visit to the Kurdistan Region, and the protocol directorates from the KRG/ DFR and the Turkish Foreign Ministry organized the program of this visit to the Kurdistan Region. Regarding the visit to Kirkuk, it was not organized by DFR; in fact the Kirkuk area is administered by the Iraqi Federal government and the Turkish delegation were received by the Governorate and the Provincial Council.
KT: How do you describe the current relationship between the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations (DFR) and Iraq’s Foreign Ministry?
KJ: The relations between the DFR and the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs are normal and we coordinate on a daily basis and we continue to work in strengthening those relations. Our relations have to be in accordance to Iraq’s federal constitution, we desire to put in place a mechanism to institutionalize our relationship with Baghdad. The Kurdistan Regional Government aspires to work closely together with the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we believe that we have to have normal and healthy relations for the benefit of both main nations in Iraq. We follow the policies of the federal sovereign government; for example we do not open Consulates in the Kurdistan Region unless they already have an established Embassy in Baghdad and upon approval by the federal Iraqi Foreign Ministry.
KT: Given the strategic agreement between the PUK and KDP, can Minister Falah Mustafa unilaterally appoint Qubad Talabani’s successor in Washington and who are the candidates?
KJ: This coalition government is the outcome of the strategic agreement between the PUK and KDP, however it does not mean that ministries are run by different political parties. On the contrary the partnership continues to increase and the choice of a successor to the KRG Representative to the United States of America, Qubad Talabani, is the authority of the Council of Ministers. Therefore it will be chosen by the Council of Ministers from the candidates named for the post.
KT: What is the administration’s foreign policy strategy?
KJ: Regarding your question, it is important to explain, that setting the foreign policy in its entirety in Iraq is exclusive by the Federal Government in Baghdad according to Iraq’s constitution. Meanwhile The Kurdistan Region has granted the right to be a part in the implementation of the set Iraqi foreign policies. We are working in many different fields which include culture, education and development. Based within these constitutional and legal frameworks, the strategy of the Department of Foreign Relations is to continue its open door policy in order to develop and strengthen relations with the international community in a way that would be mutually beneficial for the Kurdistan Region.
We, in the Kurdistan Region now believe more than ever, that our region is in need of development and the strengthening of international relations especially to help deliver the messages and attitudes of the Kurdistan positions with regards to the important political issues. We have seen a boom in the number of diplomatic representations based in the Kurdistan Region which currently stands at twenty five, and that is testament to the relations we have been able to establish with various countries from around the world.
We believe that there are two pillars that particularly help the establishment of strong international relations, the first being economic. I think we have been able to make a great achievement as the result of that investment conducive environment along with the stable and secure working environment offered by KRG; and the second being the human rights, in another word the countries establish their relations based on the degree of respect for human rights. We have made great progress in that area as well by passing tens of laws in parliament which are directly related to the protection of human rights; there are also NGO’s and civil society organizations working here freely to be able to assist people in need and give us advice on our shortcomings so that we can strive to become better.
KT: What is your preferred outcome to the conflict in Syria?
KJ: Regarding Syria, we hope to see them embrace a democratic, pluralistic system of governance that respects the rights of all the Syrian people regardless of ethnicity and religions. Obviously we pay particular attention to the Kurdish people of Syria and the KRG leaders have held discussions with various Kurdish leaders. The KRG will accept and support any agreement the people of Syria reach but we hope that it includes provisions that ensure the rights of the Kurdish people as equals in Syria. In general a democratic neighbor is much preferable.
KT: Does the KRG support the call by the KRG of Syria for international support and protection?
KJ: We think that the people of Syria should decide themselves on what they want. We obviously see on a daily basis that the Syrian regime is oppressing its own people and that they are breaking all international laws. The latest UN, Kofi Annan’s, effort failed and we see that the situation is only getting worse and that the need for international support, aid and protection is needed and necessary.
KT: And finally, it has been noticed on many occasions that the Foreign Minister interprets for the President during official visits. Is this part of his contract or just a reflection of the degree of trust between the president and the FM?
KJ: Kak Falah is the Head of the KRG DFR with a ministerial rank and interpretation is not a part of his work within the DFR, but the reasons he translates in some occasion is in order to ensure that the message does not get lost in translation when the President meet with foreign dignitaries and diplomats. Translation is a difficult task to undertake and carries a large responsibility.
Karwan Jamal has been Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Relations (Deputy Minister) within the KRG since July 2009. Prior to this he was senior advisor to the Minister of Natural Resources from the establishment of the Ministry 2007.