Kurds are ready to hit militants anywhere, Massoud Barzani says

October 13, 2013 – Erbil – AFP – Iraqi Kurdistan is prepared to strike militants anywhere, including neighbouring Syria, but the Kurds must avoid being drawn into its civil war, the autonomous region’s president Massoud Barzani told AFP.

“We will not hesitate in directing strikes (against) the terrorist criminals in any place,” Barzani said in an exclusive interview with AFP, when asked about the possibility of Kurdish action against militants in Iraq or Syria.

“Our duty is to protect the Kurds if we are able,” he said. But the long-time Kurdish leader made a distinction between that and being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, which he said the Kurds must try to avoid. “Our opinion is that the Kurds must stand at the same distance” from all parties in the conflict, so “the Kurdish people are not forced into a war” from which they will gain nothing,www.ekurd.net Barzani said.

Barzani also said in the interview that Iraqi Kurdistan had provided military training to Syrian Kurds so they could defend their communities — the first public acknowledgement that this was done. “A number of young (men) were trained, but truly not with the aim of entering the war,” Barzani said.

It is “a natural right for there to be a state for the Kurdish people, but this will not be achieved by violence, and must be done in a natural way,” Barzani said.

This “age is the age of understanding, and we encourage dialogue between the Kurds and… the states” where Kurdish populations live, he said.All this has angered Baghdad, and the two sides are also locked in a protracted dispute over the Kurds’ long-standing demands for the incorporation of other traditionally Kurdish-majority areas into their autonomous region.Barzani also said that political disputes and rampant violence that is killing hundreds of people in Iraq each month will likely not be resolved before parliamentary elections next year. “I do not believe that the fundamental problems will be resolved until these elections,” Barzani said, adding that “there is real fear … that the conflicts will develop into a civil war.