AGM Minutes

Minutes of the AGM of the APPG Kurdistan Region in Iraq in W2 on 21 March 2023

Attendance. Jack Lopresti MP, Mary Glindon MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Royston Smith MP, Lillian Greenwood MP, Mark Tami MP, John Spellar MP. Canberk Sirmen (for Baroness Nicholson). Nick Watts (with Jack
Lopresti MP), Gary Kent, Secretariat.

Apologies. Wayne David MP, Lord Austin of Dudley, Alicia Kearns MP, Feryal Clark MP, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, Jason McCartney MP, Henry Smith MP, Steve Reed MP.

Election of Chair. Jack Lopresti MP was elected and Alicia Kearns MP was thanked for her service.

Election of Vice-Chairs. The following were elected. Mary Glindon MP, Wayne David MP, Lord Austin of Dudley.

Election of other officers. The following were approved. Alicia Kearns MP, Feryal Clark MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, Jason McCartney MP, Henry Smith MP, Steve Reed MP.

Gary Kent was agreed as the Unpaid Secretariat.

Income and Expenditure Statement. It was noted that none was necessary.

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The AGM of the APPG is on Tuesday 21 March at 10.30am in W2 in the Commons and for parliamentarians only.

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APPG Vice-Chair Mary Glindon advocates improved Erbil/Baghdad links and economic and political reform.

APPG Vice Chair Mary Glindon today asked the following question of the Foreign Secretary in the Commons.

Mary Glindon

Does the Minister agree that unjustifiable Iranian bombardments on Iraqi Kurdistan and other attacks require resolving disputes between Baghdad and Erbil plus accelerating economic and political reform, and that these should continue to be key themes for our excellent diplomats there?

James Cleverly

I met the President and Foreign Minister of the newly installed Iraqi Government when I was in Egypt, and we of course have a very good working relationship with both Erbil and Baghdad. It is in the interests of all Iraqis that the relationship between Irbil and Baghdad is fruitful and we will continue to invest diplomatic effort to ensure that continues.

Comment. This question helps keep important issues on the agenda and help illustrate that MPs are aware of the key issues facing the Kurdistan Region and the need for a new relationship based on the principles of the federal Iraqi constitution.

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Minutes of the AGM of the APPG held on 17 March 2022.

1 Attendance. Wayne David MP, Mary Glindon MP, Lord Austin of Dudley, Feryal Clark MP, Henry Smith MP, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale. David Hunt, UK Consul-General. Gary Kent (Secretariat). Chair. Feryal Clark.

2 Apologies. Jason McCartney MP, Alicia Kearns MP, Jack Lopresti MP, Alexander Stafford MP, Steve Reed MP, Toby Perkins MP, and Lord Clement-Jones.

3 Elections. Alicia Kearns was re-elected as Chair. Wayne David, Jack Lopresti, Mary Glindon, and Lord Austin of Dudley were elected as Co-Chairs. Feryal Clark, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, Jason McCartney, Henry Smith, Steve Reed, and Alexander Stafford were elected as Vice Chairs.

4 Income and Expenditure Statement for the last year. Formally approved.*

It was noted that that the sponsorship expired in December and agreed that Gary Kent is now our unpaid, voluntary Secretariat.

5 Future Business. It was agreed that the Secretariat brings forward plans to organise a) a delegation after scheduled parliamentary elections in the last quarter of this year including an annual summit of Kurdish and British MPs, some training of MPs, a report, and Westminster Hall Debate and b) a reception for the Sheik Mahmoud Foundation, a charity formed by the family of the last King of Kurdistan. It is keen to chart the Anglo/Kurdistani history from war and peace to alliance over the last century. They want to speak about this and exhibit some of their archive at a reception in the Commons and to help build the bilateral relationship.

6 Guest speaker. David Hunt, UK Consul-General for the Kurdistan Region and northern Iraq gave an overview of the current situation and the priorities and profile of our diplomatic mission before taking questions and comments.

* Income and Expenditure Statement in full.
Name of group. APPG Kurdistan Region in Iraq
Period covered by this statement: 14 January 2021-15 January 2022
A. Balance brought forward from previous year: nil
B. Income received during the year:
i. Membership subscriptions (parliamentarians) nil
ii. Monetary donations (including external subscriptions and sponsorship) nil
iii. Trading income nil iv. Interest received nil
v. Other (please explain) nil
TOTAL income nil
C. Expenditure during the year:
i. Employment costs (salaries, NI, pensions costs) nil
ii. Costs of contractors and freelance staff nil
iii. Visits and events (UK) nil
iv. Visits and events (abroad) nil
v. Cost of generating income nil
vi. Office and communications costs nil
vii. Other (please explain) nil
TOTAL expenditure 0
D. Balance carried forward (A+ total B-total C) 0
E. Value of benefits in kind received from each source during the reporting year (in bands of up to £1,500; £1,501- £3,000; £3,001 to £4,500; £4,501 to £6,000 etc ) Please itemise according to the source and band
Kar Group payment for Secretariat. 57001-58500
Signed by Chair of Group: Alicia Kearns MP
Date: 17 March 2022

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APPG condems missile attack on Erbil

The missile attack launched on the flimsiest of pretexts from Iran on the outskirts of Erbil was a disgrace that deserves the utmost condemnation. We are relieved that no one was injured or killed. It was also right that the Iraqi Prime Minister visited the site and lifts hopes that the Kurdistan Region and federal Iraqi governments can double down on resolving their differences as well as accelerating the formation of a new government in Baghdad that can protect Iraq and its citizens from such attempts to bully and intimidate.

Alicia Kearns MP
Chair APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

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KRG Statement on Ruling of the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (GOV.KRD) – The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following statement on Tuesday in response to the recent decision by the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court regarding Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas sector.

“The Kurdistan Regional Government believes in the Federal Iraqi Constitution of 2005. The Constitution recognizes the Kurdistan Region as a federal region with legislative, executive, and judiciary powers as per Article 117, and divides authority between the federal and regional bodies.

“Article 112 of the Constitution also stipulates that oil and gas is not within the exclusive authority of the federal government. This same article also preserves the right of the Kurdistan Region to produce and develop the region’s oil and gas.

“With regard for Article 112, and in the spirit of cooperation, the Kurdistan Region attempted to establish a law for oil and gas alongside the Iraqi government. A draft was prepared and signed by both sides in February 2007. In the protocol of this draft, both sides agreed that, if the draft does not pass in the Parliament within six months, both sides have the authority to develop their respective oil and gas sectors.

“The federal government unilaterally made significant changes to the draft when it removed all of the Kurdistan Region’s constitutional authorities. The Kurdistan Regional Parliament then, in compliance with its constitutional authorities, passed the Region’s oil and gas law, leading to renowned international oil companies investing massively in the sector, drilling for oil and developing the oil fields.

“The federal government’s unilateral decision to cut the Kurdistan Region’s share of the federal budget in February 2014 led to a major financial crisis in the Region. Consequentially, in March 2014, oil exports abroad commenced in an attempt to secure salaries and public services.

“The Kurdistan Region has continued negotiations to take mutual constitutional measures ever since and, in its latest attempt, both sides agreed, as part of the Federal Budget Law of 2021, that the Kurdistan Region has the right to produce and sell oil, with the federal government receiving 250,000 barrels of oil a day in return.

“Both sides also have a mutual understanding in drafting the federal oil and gas bill with regard to Article 112 of the Constitution. This further demonstrates the Kurdistan Region’s commitment to cooperation with the federal government, within the framework of the Constitution, in order to frame in oil and gas strategy across Iraq.

“While all sides should have considered the positive relations which exist between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government, on Tuesday, the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court made a ruling without any regards for the Constitution. This ruling drew precedent from the centralized laws of the former Ba’ath regime, which does not align with the principles of federalism set out in the Constitution.

“It was the duty of the federal authorities to terminate those centralized laws after 2005, including the Ministry of Oil Law No. 101 of 1976. Moreover, this decision from the Federal Supreme Court constitutes multiple violations of the law by combining two different lawsuits without any legal basis. As such, this decision will further complicate this matter and preclude resolution of the dispute.”

In light of the aforementioned facts, the Kurdistan Regional Government stresses:

1- This decision by the Federal Supreme Court is unjust, unconstitutional, and violates the rights and constitutional authorities of the Kurdistan Region. It is unacceptable and the Court must investigate further and consider the requests of the Kurdistan Region.

2- The Kurdistan Regional Government will not forfeit the rights of the Kurdistan Region as codified in the Iraqi Constitution, and will continue its attempts to reach a constitutional solution with the federal government on this matter. This decision was reached in spite of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s request that the case be adjourned to allow the opportunity for an agreement to be reached with the federal government.

3- The Kurdistan Regional Government will take all constitutional, legal, and judicial measures to protect and preserve all contracts made in the oil and gas sector.

Kurdistan Regional Government
February 15, 2022

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The AGM will be online on Thursday 17 March at 11am. This is for parliamentarians only. The special guest after formal business will be David Hunt, the UK Consul-General to the Kurdistan Region and northern Iraq.

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United Kingdom reaffirms support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, January 30, 2022

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received a letter from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Boris Johnson reaffirming continued UK commitment to the longstanding security and stability of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Mr. Johnson also refers to President Nechirvan Barzani’s last visit to London, describing it as an important opportunity to discuss mutual partnership.

Responding to an earlier letter from President Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister Johnson writes, “It was a pleasure to host you in London in September, following my visit to Erbil in 2015. The UK values highly our partnership and remains committed to the long-term security and stability of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.”

“Our meeting was an important opportunity to consolidate our already close relationship, and to discuss our vital counter-Daesh cooperation and to exchange on regional issues,” the Prime Minister writes further.

“I was very pleased to hear about improvements in relations with the federal government. The UK supports your ambition for a reformed Peshmerga,” Mr. Johnson says in the letter.

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Minutes of EGM of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

Thursday 13 January

Attendance; Baroness Ramsay, Lord Austin, Alicia Kearns MP, Feryal Clark MP, Mary Glindon MP, Sarah Atherton MP, Louie French MP, Gagan Mohindra MP, Kieran Mullan MP, Robert Halfon MP, Peter Gibson MP, Wayne David MP, Lloyd Russell Moyle MP, and Robin Millar MP. Gary Kent (Secretariat).

Apologies: Jason McCartney MP, Lord Clement-Jones

Election of Chair. Alicia Kearns was nominated by Gagan Mohindra, seconded by several MPs, and elected.

Robert Halfon was thanked deeply for all his service as the previous Chair.

Ideas for future work were discussed on human rights, the rule of law, freedom of the media, parliamentary training, migration, and engagement with Kurdish Diaspora organisations. It was agreed that Gary Kent should present a paper to the APPG at its next meeting.

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The state of bilateral relations between the Kurdistan Region and the UK

For years, the starting point for many Kurds in assessing relations with the UK was Sykes-Picot, the agreement of 1916 between Britain and France that eventually resulted in the forcible inclusion of the Kurds into Iraq.

However, after decades of discrimination leading to genocide, the Kurdistan Region in Iraq is the only officially recognised autonomous region for Kurds and its status and rights are enshrined in the Iraqi constitution of 2005, albeit imperfectly, to say the least.

Two seminal events helped create that improved position and enhanced the place of the Kurdistan Region in UK foreign policy and public opinion. Both have also encouraged a much more positive reassessment of the British link to Kurdistan.

The first was Sir John Major’s decision in 1991 to persuade his American and French allies to support a safe haven and no-fly zone over much of Iraqi Kurdistan. This was in response to the grave danger of further genocide and under pressure from the outraged concerns of public and parliamentary opinion as we saw the misery in the mountains.

It took a great effort by Sir John Major to persuade America to support this military intervention. The American public was keen to see their troops returned after the successful liberation of Kuwait. It also technically infringed the sovereignty of Iraq, which sought to subvert it and fired on the Western jets that enforced it.

But the safe haven allowed millions to return from the mountains and rebuild an effectively autonomous near-state in initially inauspicious conditions. In 1992, Kurds voted for a new parliament in April and the first coalition cabinet was formed. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was born.

The British and the Americans protected the Kurds for 12 years until the second event that transformed the safety and prospects of the Kurdistan Region – the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The demise of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship allowed the Kurds, who had long allied with Shia forces against Saddam, to rejoin Iraq on the condition that it be federal. Their allies had grudgingly agreed this before the invasion and it was translated into the 2005 constitution.

The first decade after 2003 is often referred to as a golden one. The KRG was able to build a new oil and gas sector from scratch, boost living standards, open new universities, improve infrastructure such as a new airport – the old one was a small collection of military huts – and open several High Representations. I started working with the one in London, then headed by Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman in 2005.

The UK joined the US and other status quo powers in not supporting the referendum on the principle of independence. But they argue for a strong KRG within Iraq.

The cause of the Kurds in Iraq benefitted considerably from Sir John Major’s radical decision to modify the rules of international relations. There is also no doubt that the Kurdistani contribution after 2003 to stabilising Iraq, taking the Iraqi presidency on three occasions so far, defeating Daesh, defying extremism, protecting minorities, and upholding moderate religious practice and women’s rights have all enhanced its importance in Western foreign policies.

Those who want a more reliable relationship with Baghdad and correct relations with other neighbours have to build their own capacity and reform and diversify their economy so it is resilient and sustainable. But they can do so in partnership with countries such as the UK that recognise the importance of that change for mutual interests and benefits.

The outreach work of the KRG, the contribution of the diaspora – there are three Kurdish barbers in my own neighbourhood – and the support of friendship groups like the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) all help keep Kurdish issues and interests in the spotlight. Our delegations to Kurdistan and regular debates in parliament also help keep the concerns of our friends on an agenda that is inevitably composed of so many competing demands.

But President Nechirvan Barzani’s official visit to the UK is a great opportunity to focus minds on further advancing that established and strong relationship on security, commercial, and political issues.

Gary Kent is the Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and writes in a personal capacity. This article first appeared in Rudaw.

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