Conference’s call for Iraq-Israel normalization doesn’t reflect Kurdistan’s position: presidency

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SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The Kurdistan Region Presidency said on Saturday a conference held in Erbil and called for the normalization of ties between Iraq and Israel does not reflect policies and positions of the Kurdistan Region.

More than 300 Iraqis attended the conference of peace and reclamation organized by U.S. think-tank Center for Peace Communications (CPC) in Erbil on Friday.

The conference called for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords, referring to the U.S.-sponsored process in which UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan agreed last year to normalize ties with Israel.

The conference’s demand drew a chorus of condemnation from Iraqi and Kurdish governments and political parties.

“We announce that the Kurdistan Region Presidency was not, in any way, informed about that event or the topics discussed in it,” the presidency said in a statement.

“The remarks issued by the meeting, on no account, reflect the views, policies or positions of the Kurdistan Region,” it added.

“We reiterate that foreign policy positions, directions and issues fall under the authority of the Federal Government according to the Constitution, and the Kurdistan Region follows Iraq’s foreign policy entirely.”

It also urged Iraqi parties not to “lose sight over this issue as we all await the outcome of an investigation carried out by the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Interior.”

In a separate statement, the KRG ministry of interior said it would take measures against organizers of the conference and that it would expel them from the Kurdistan Region.

“The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is always committed to the official foreign policy of the Iraqi state, and it will never allow some people to use the freedom and democracy that are exist in the Region for other political purposes,” the ministry said.

“Those who did this act will be expelled and they won’t have a place in the Kurdistan Region,” it added.

Iraq’s federal government also rejected the conference’s call for normalization and dismissed the gathering as an “illegal meeting”.

The conference “was not representative of the population’s [opinion] and that of residents in Iraqi cities, in whose name these individuals purported to speak,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

The office of Iraq’s President Barham Salih, himself a Kurd, joined in the condemnation.

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr urged the government to “arrest all the participants”, while Ahmed Assadi, an MP with the ex-paramilitary group Hashid al-Shaabi, branded them “traitors in the eyes of the law”.

The conference participants included Sunni and Shia representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers”, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.

“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” AFP quoted Sahar al-Tai, one of the attendees, as saying, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in Erbil.

“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” said Sahar al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in Erbil.

“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.

“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.

Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.

“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.

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