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Published On: Wed, Feb 15th, 2017

Russia Hosts Pan-Kurdistan Conference – The Third Great Middle East War

nsnbc : Russia hosted the annual pan-Kurdistan conference in the capital Moscow with participants of major Kurdish parties from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran to discuss the future of Kurdistan and Kurdish politics within a region that is undergoing major changes. The annual conference is jointly organized by the Union of International Kurdish Social Institutions the KNK Moscow Representation Office, and others.

Syrian Kurdish refugees displaced in July - August 2013 (archives)

Syrian Kurdish refugees displaced in July – August 2013 (archives)

Among the participants from Turkey’s Kurdish region were HDP Members of Parliament Osman Baydemir and Dilek Öcalan, as well as  Ebru Günay, the lawyer of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. From Syria’s Kurdish region participated the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Asya Abdullah.

From Iraq’s Kurdish region participated Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) MPs Azzat Sabır Ismail, Gorran, MP Sherko Hama Amin, and Islamic Union Party member Xelil Ibrahim Muhammed. From Iran’s Kurdish region participated PJAK representative Ehwen Chiyako. The conference was also attended by a number of representatives of Russian “think tanks”.

It is noteworthy that the conference and its participants largely were representative of the geopolitical rivalries between major international as well as regional powers.

Not present at the conference were representatives of northern Iraq’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic party – Iran (KDP-I). The KDP is primarily supported by Turkey, the United States and by other NATO member States. The KDP-I, a close ally of the KDP, has its main bases in northern Iraq and increased attacks against Iranian Revolutionary Guard units in northwestern Iran since Iran began increasing its support of Shia militia in Iraq last year.

The PKK and the PYD, on the other hand, are widely considered as Moscow’s and Tehran’s “Kurdish Proxy” or “stay behind” allies for the case of a war between Turkey and Syria or Russia and/or  Iran and NATO. Russia – Kurds National and Cultural Federal Autonomy Co-president Ferhat Patiyev commented on the scope of the 6th annual conference.

Patiyev referred to the conference and the situation in the Middle East in terms of a “Third great war for sharing the Middle East”; A reference to the competition between alliances over influence in the Middle East in World War One and World War Two. Patiyev added that the main goal of the conference is to discuss the problems in the Middle East and to make a comprehensive assessment of the developments in the four parts of Kurdistan in connection with the developments in Syria, Iraq, and northern Iraqi Kurdistan. Patiyev did not mention the conflict in northwestern Iran’s Kurdish region.

Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the conference on Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, Duhok Dec 15, 2016. Image courtesy NRK

Zalmay Khalilzad speaks at the conference on Independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, Duhok Dec 15, 2016. Image courtesy NRK

It is noteworthy that a similar conference, just with participation of more Turkey – US – NATO leaning participants was held at the American University of Kurdistan in Dukhok, northern Iraq, in December 2016. The two-day-long conference at the American University of Kurdistan featured five panels aimed at discussing a possibly independent Kurdistan, international law, Kurdistan as subject in international law, as well as issues that would tag along with an eventual independence.

Among the participants are, among others, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of Kurdistan Region Security Council, Barham Salih, Former KRG PM, Zalmay Khalilzad, the as well as former US Ambassador Khalilzad and and French politicians. Zalmay Khalilzad, called on the public in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to raise the issue of Kurdish and put aside internal issues and rivalries among the parties in the predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq. Khalilzad underpinned that Kurdish independence hadn’t yet been achieved because of internal rivalries among Kurds. He added:

“The question is … is this the time? Is this the time for Kurds to reach for that aspiration that has been there? And this is a big decision. It is not a simple decision, it is not a casual decision. It is an important decision. It is a vital decision for the Kurds especially. .. I call upon of all the Kurds of Iraq, you know that I feel strongly and positively about you, is to rise to occasion, recognize the importance of this issue and put the little games aside and focus on the big and vital issue of independence because the eyes of the world will be on you if you start this process”.

The issue of the independence of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, in Syria, Iran and Turkey and its recognition as subject in international law pits two equally valid principles in international law against each other. That is; UN member states’ right to territorial integrity vs. the right to self-determination. In its declaration of principles from 1973 the UN recognized the validity of both principles and the legality of their application as long as they were not mutually exclusive. The outcome of this dilemma is usually armed conflict with Kurds being used as pawns by opposing global and regional powers.

CH/L – nsnbc 15.02.2017

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