Kurdish Congress Stalled Over Issues in Syrian Kurdistan

By RUDAW – 19-11-2013 – Fuad Hussein, chief of staff for Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, said that a planned Kurdish Congress has been stalled because of differences among political parties, but mainly over the unfolding events in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

“There is a main issue between the PYD (Democratic Union Party) and other Syrian Kurdish parties. They have deep issues over the border and other things. So, if you can’t agree on this, then it impacts the congress,” he explained in an interview with Rudaw. Here is an edited transcript of his comments:

Rudaw: Why was the Kurdish National Congress not held on time?

Fuad Hussein: The conference was delayed by consensus. All the parties were at the meeting —  PKK, PYD, BDP and all the other Kurdish parties from all parts of Kurdistan — that decided to delay the congress. There are technical issues for not holding the congress. But the delay has got nothing to do with (President) Barzani. There are big issues within the political Kurdish parties. There is a main issue between the PYD and other Syrian Kurdish parties. They have deep issues over the border and other things. So, if you can’t agree on this, then it impacts the congress. The congress was initiated by Barzani and has been on the agenda for four years, but the political situation was not helpful. When the political parties united and decided to work together, Barzani proposed formation of a preparatory committee, but the issue in Rojava is big and unless it is solved we can’t hold the congress.

  The issue in Rojava is big and unless it is solved we can’t hold the congress.

Rudaw: And why was it postponed again this month? It is said that the neighboring countries like Iran, Turkey and Iraq were against this congress.

Fuad Hussein: Of course, if you say that the Kurdish congress is to create a greater Kurdistan, there will be such reaction from the regional countries and there was in fact such reaction. Besides, people’s expectations were raised which caused reaction in the region and the outside world. Different interpretations and proposals were made about the congress. Some said it would be to establish a greater Kurdistan. Others were making comparisons to the European Union or for the congress to become something like the Arab League. But these proposals were wrong. Barzani’s goal for the congress was to tell the world that we are one nation, have our own identity and that we want to reach our goals through political means and dialogue.  It was to give a message of peace to our people, the region and the world. We wanted to tell the world that our people have rights and we want to reach our rights.

The timing of the congress was always right and it still is, but it changed when other ideas entered the scene. I also think that not everything should have appeared in the media. You can discuss and debate everything in a meeting, but why give it to the media before you have reached a decision? When it is in the media, then the outside world will think it is a decision. Others will read it as a plan. They will not take it as just part of the dialogue.

Rudaw: Don’t you think the problem had also to do with representation? For example, the Kurdistan Region taking part as a government and others only as political parties?

  The timing of the congress was always right and it still is, 

Fuad Hussein: The invitation from the president was for all political parties, and members of the organizing committee themselves also said that they represented the political parties. But in the meantime, the Kurdistan Region is a recognized constitutional entity. It has a legal and political status. It has a parliament, government and flag. Therefore, it is natural that this region would take into account its own interest and that of the cultural and political and economic interests of its people. But generally all Kurdish political parties were present in the organizing committee.

There was another initial issue to do with attendees. Six hundred representatives were agreed to be invited, in addition to another 300 guests. So these were some of the issues about the distribution of the representatives. Political parties did not agree on the distribution of the number of seats. Some from eastern Kurdistan suggested equal seats for all parts of Kurdistan at 150 seats, but for example, the PKK did not agree to this. They said that they have a bigger population in north (Turkish) Kurdistan, so their representatives in the congress should be more. This was one of the issues.

Rudaw: Did Turkish officials talk about the peace process with you?

Fuad Hussein: PKK is in a peace process. Sometimes there are media statements that the process has stalled, but that could only be related to the tactics of negotiations. PKK holds talks with Turkish officials; the BDP meets with Ocalan and Turkish officials about the peace process. During our meeting with (Turkish premier) Erdogan and the Turkish officials, they always talked about the peace process. I think the democratic package is the first step and other steps will follow, however I cannot speak for the AKP (Justice and Development Party). But the PKK says the package is insufficient. However, what is important is that neither the PKK nor Ankara reject the peace process and both think the process is needed. The PKK says that all their demands are met, while Turkey says the internal situation of the country needs to be taken into account.

Rudaw: Do you think this package will succeed even though it does not mention the Kurds?

  What is important is that neither the PKK nor Ankara reject the peace process and both think the process is needed. 

Fuad Hussein: A peace process is like a train with different stations and sometimes the train needs to stop at the station. So it is normal if the peace process needs to stop for a while at the very first station. However, this is related to the negotiators themselves. When the process started, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and President Massoud Barzani talked about this with Turkish officials. Both have offered proposals about this process and the AKP has listened to them. We did not talk about this because this is an internal issue in Turkey.

Rudaw: Do you think the change of PKK leadership will affect the peace process?

Fuad Hussein: I can’t comment on it, but we hear fiery statements from Qandil from time to time. But in all cases, the process has started in Turkey and it’s an important one. But nothing can be changed overnight. More works need to be done on the process and the Kurdistan Region will continue to assist the process.

Rudaw: Does President Barzani have contact with PKK leader Cemil Bayik?

Fuad Hussein: You cannot say there is no contact. I don’t know if there is direct contact between the PKK leader and Barzani but contacts do not necessarily have to be between the two leaders. Also, during the preparatory works of the organization committee for the Kurdish Congress, PKK officials and other party officials met in the presidential office. Now, the relations between the Kurdish political parties are not secret like the past. Now, everyone knows that there would be contact with the PKK and it’s natural. When Turkey has contacts with the PKK on a peace process that was proposed by Barzani, it is only obvious that we are in contact with them too.

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