Minister Falah Mustafa and Representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman with Britain's Middle East Minister Hugh Robertson
London, UK - (KRG.org) - Minister Falah Mustafa, the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, during an official visit to the UK, called on Britain to provide practical assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government and Kurdish NGOs to help Syrian refugees.
Minister Mustafa was in the UK for a four-day visit in which he met the Minister for the Middle East, officials at the Department For International Development (DFID), the envoys for health and trade, as well as parliamentarians and think tanks. He was accompanied by Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG's High Representative to the UK, and both of them took part in a conference at the University of Cambridge marking the past 10 years in Iraq.
Minister Mustafa and Ms Abdul Rahman met Hugh Robertson, the UK's newly-appointed Minister for the Middle East, to discuss recent developments in Kurdistan and Iraq, including the elections to the Kurdistan Parliament, the discussions on the Iraqi election law which will determine whether votes only have an impact in the province in which they are cast or throughout the country. Mr Mustafa echoed the calls on the British government to recognise the Kurdish genocide and highlighted the humanitarian crisis facing the Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region. He invited Minister Robertson to visit Kurdistan and to see the region for himself.
The plight of the Syrian refugees, who are mostly Kurds but also Arabs and Christians, was also discussed at a meeting with Mark Bowman, DFID's Director General for Humanitarian, Security, Conflict and International Finance, and members of DFID's Syrian Crisis team.
Minister Mustafa said that about 235,000 people from Syria have crossed into Kurdistan Region. Half of them have been absorbed into the local community while the remainder is in camps. The KRG has already spent $65million helping the refugees and oil companies operating in the region have pledged $50million this year. The Iraqi federal government has pledged $12million.
'The people of Kurdistan and the KRG have responded to the refugees as a national and humanitarian cause. Not so long ago we were refugees ourselves. With no end in sight for the political crisis and civil war in Syria, this is becoming a longer term issue and we need practical assistance and planning for the long-term,' said Minister Mustafa. 'British NGOs played an important role in Kurdistan in the 1990s. They and DFID have the kind of expertise that we can learn from and that will help the KRG and Kurdish NGOs to better serve the refugees.'
Mr Bowman said his department would study the refugees' situation in Kurdistan and would provide assistance to the children via a contribution of £2million (equivalent to $3.2million) to Unicef in Iraq. He said, 'We express our appreciation for what you are doing. This is a regional and international crisis. You and other countries are bearing the burden.'
Minister Mustafa highlighted the plight of the refugees in his meetings with members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region and with Ian Lucas MP, the Shadow Middle East Minister. Mr Lucas, who visited the Domiz refugee camp in Duhok near the Syrian border earlier this year, said, 'We went to Domiz and it's extremely impressive what the KRG is doing there. Having so many people come into Kurdistan in such a short time puts a lot of pressure on you.' On the issue of recognition of the genocide, Mr Lucas said that he would continue the dialogue with Mr Robertson and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In his meeting with the APPG, Minister Mustafa thanked the parliamentarians for their support to the Kurdish community in Britain as well as the people of Kurdistan, particularly in highlighting the need for the recognition of the Kurdish genocide.
The minister addressed the Kurdish Genocide Task Force, a group of parliamentarians, lawyers, public relations and genocide experts brought together by the KRG UK Representation to provide advice on raising awareness and recognition of the Kurdish genocide. The Minister thanked the group for their work and successes so far and encouraged them to continue to share their expertise to help the survivors and the relatives of those who lost their lives.
The Minister and Ms Abdul Rahman also met Lord Marland, the British Prime Minister's Trade Envoy, and Lord Kakkar, the Health Envoy, to discuss direct flights from the UK to Kurdistan, visas, bilateral trade and plans for the UK to provide Kurdistan with healthcare expertise and training.
While in London, Minister Mustafa addressed think tanks that focus on the Middle East: RUSI, Chatham House and the Next Century Foundation, as well as the leading trade organisation, the Middle East Association. He told audiences about Kurdistan's recent elections, the forthcoming Iraqi elections and the dispute over the election law, relations between Erbil and Baghdad, Kurdistan's growing economy and the fact that many international companies see Kurdistan as a launch-pad to the rest of Iraq and that direct flights from the UK and easier visa-access would enable Kurdistan-UK trade relations to go even further.
The minister also gave interviews to the BBC's Arabic television service which is based in London and to Reuters news agency.