PM Barzani’s Visit to Iran Believed to Strengthen Trade and Diplomatic Ties

21/11/2012 RUDAW  By HEVIDAR AHMED – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani and a trade and foreign ministry delegation visited Iran on Nov. 11 and met with the president and other senior Iranian officials.

Fareed Assasard, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leadership council, told Rudaw, “This visit should have been paid earlier, because there was an imbalance in the foreign relations of Kurdistan. Turkey has been dominating the investment sector and the markets in Kurdistan and this has made Iran feel marginalized.” He added, “Diplomatic victory needs several factors, and the timing of Barzani’s visit to Iran was smart.”

Assasard saw the visit to Iran as successful. “Politically, this visit will have a positive impact and will improve economic and trade ties with Iran, because the economy will also open the door to diplomacy with Iran,” he said.

The position of the Kurdistan Region towards the situation in Syria — which is a close and primary ally of Iran in the region — has caused some fissure in relations with Iran. Abdulla Akreyi, a Kurdish foreign relations officer in Iran, told Rudaw, “In his visit to Iran, Barzani played a big role in improving relations because Iran was worried.” He explained Iran’s concerns, saying, “Iran believed that Kurdistan did not want to form relations with Tehran, and they even said that they thought Kurdistan was antagonizing Iran.” Two days after the visit of the KRG delegation, Iran sent one of its most senior officials to the Kurdistan Region along with numerous Iranian economists and tradesmen to attend an economic conference in Erbil. Officials from the KRG and Iran talked about trade relations and said that they aim to increase trade volume to $11 billion. “The visit of Barzani to Iran culminated in Iran sending its presidential assistant to Kurdistan. President Ahmadinejad strongly supported the visit of his assistant to Kurdistan after he met with Barzani,” said Akreyi. Arez Abdullah, a PUK leadership council member, described the current status of Kurdistan’s foreign relations and said they were “very good.”

Iran is considered as one of the most important countries in the Middle East and it shares 600 kilometers of borders with Kurdistan. Akreyi, who accompanied the KRG PM to Iran, said, “Whenever Nechirvan Barzani visits Iran, the attitude of the Iranian officials totally changes and they welcome him very warmly and the meetings end with very good results.” Assasard said that there are two architects behind Kurdistan’s foreign relations with Iran. “Jalal Talabani is one architect, and Nechirvan Barzani is the second architect of foreign relations between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Iran. After the formation of the KRG, this visit has improved relations,” he said.