Minister Falah Mustafa, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Head of Foreign Relations, met Lord Howell, Foreign Office Minister in the House of Lords, in London. He also met other ministers and British parliamentarians, and thanked them for their support for the Kurdistan Region.
Minister Mustafa and Lord Howell discussed ways of deepening the already good relations between Kurdistan and Britain in education, culture, trade and capacity-building. They also discussed the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) international campaign to gain formal recognition of the Kurdish genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Lord Howell noted that visitors to Kurdistan were generally impressed. "We do admire what you are doing in the Kurdistan Region. In this troubled world, we look for bright spots and Kurdistan is one."
Minister Mustafa updated Lord Howell on the political crisis in Iraq. He said, "This is a serious issue for all of us in Iraq. The Kurds and other political partners are trying to ensure that the democratic process succeeds and that Iraq doesn't return to authoritarian rule. The Kurds have suffered a great deal under the previous regime and we have come a long way in developing a free society and a growing economy. For us there is no going back."
They also spoke about the situation in Syria and possible future changes there. Minister Mustafa said, "We welcome democratic change. What happens in Syria is important not only for its people but also for us. The rights of Kurdish people in Syria need to be recognised."
Minister Mustafa also met Damien Green, the Minister of State for Immigration. They discussed capacity- building, voluntary returns, training programmes and making visa processing in Kurdistan easier for all citizens.
The ministerial meetings were part of a three-day visit to the UK during which Minister Mustafa also addressed the Kurdish Genocide Task Force, a group of parliamentarians, British and international experts supported by the KRG UK Representation, who meet regularly to discuss raising awareness of the genocide. Minister Mustafa thanked the group and reiterated the KRG's backing for its work.
Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region also met Minister Bakir, who told them, "We appreciate the work that you all do. You support the people of Kurdistan, you give the KRG both enrichment and constructive criticism, you encourage exchanges between our countries. And for all this we thank you."
Minister Mustafa attended the KRG UK Representation's annual summer reception which this year doubled as the official launch of an electronic petition calling on Britain to acknowledge the Kurdish genocide. To sign the e-petition, please click here www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014.
Minister Bakir separately met Lord Reid, former Defence Secretary, and discussed the opportunities in Kurdistan, as well as issues relating to the wider Iraq and neighbouring countries. Lord Reid is Chairman of the Institute of Security and Resilience Studies at University College London.
The Minister met the KRG UK Representation team and thanked them for their professionalism in representing their country. He highlighted the continuing importance of maintaining a strong relationship with the Kurdish community and forwarding their requests and views to the government in Erbil. He praised the Representation team on its work in supporting the KRG scholarship students, promoting trade and raising awareness of the genocide.
On the last day of his visit, Minister Bakir gave a lecture at Coventry University and met Vice-Chancellor Professor Madeleine Atkins. They discussed the need for vocational degrees and capacity-building in Kurdistan and potential areas of cooperation. In his lecture, the Minister gave an overview of Kurdistan and Iraq's politics and economy and recent history. He said, "I suggest you and your students would find our Region a fascinating contemporary case study. Such a study would give a much needed alternative view from the recorded histories of the big powers."
He added, "We have seen tremendous progress, and this combined with our national values make us confident of a bright and promising future for our people."
The Minister was accompanied in all of his meetings by Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG Representative to the UK. Commenting on the Minister's UK visit, she said, "Minister Bakir has met British ministers, parliamentarians, genocide experts, and academics during his visit to the UK which has boosted our relations with British institutions and encouraged the widening ties between our countries. Britain is a key friend of Kurdistan and we are pleased to see such high levels of cooperation."