In terms of the UK’s Middle East policy, where does the Kurdistan Region fit?
Iraq is a key country in the Middle East, and so we are committed to seeing it become increasingly stable, prosperous, and democratic. The Kurdistan Region has a major part to play in that.
We hope to see a resolution to the various disputes between the KRG and the Federal Government, increasing Iraq’s stability; the Region continuing to act as a gateway for international trade and investment, increasing Iraq’s prosperity; and free and fair elections this autumn, increasing Iraq’s democracy.
What role would you say British businesses have played in furthering bilateral relationships?
I think British businesses’ engagement with the region is a crucial part of this. It shows Iraqi Kurds what we can offer – expertise, professionalism, and delivery – and increases the understanding of the Region back in the UK. I want to see the UK, and UK businesses, be the partner of choice in the Kurdistan Region.
What role do you expect the Kurdistan Region to play in helping European countries meet their growing demands for oil and gas?
Newspapers and journals have been filled over recent years with articles about the Kurdistan Region’s enormous oil and gas potential, and Erbil feels like a town experiencing a genuine boom. Meanwhile, Europe’s energy demands continue to grow. So there is clearly potential for the Region’s supply to help meet Europe’s demand – or that of other parts of the world. This will, however, depend upon the routes that are available for exporting the Region’s energy.
The British Parliament unanimously recognized the Kurdish genocide in Iraq. What is the UK government’s position on the recognition of the Kurdish genocide?
I was privileged to be part of the deeply moving and well-informed debate on this subject in Parliament earlier this year. Saddam’s campaign against the Kurds was, simply, horrific. The Assad regime in Syria has provided us with a vivid and tragic reminder of the horror of chemical weapons. I have every sympathy with the victims, and those who lost family members or friends, and I stand alongside Iraq’s Kurds in saying we must not allow such weapons to be used again with impunity.
Since Parliament’s debate, I have also considered again carefully whether the UK Government should formally recognise the Anfal campaign as a genocide. The difficulty is that genocide is a crime, and Governments simply aren’t best placed to determine where crimes have and haven’t been committed. This is a judicial question which needs to be answered by a credible judicial process, and that is how genocide has been recognised in the past. As a result, I’ve had to conclude that the UK Government is unable to recognise this as a genocide. But this does not for a moment change the revulsion that we feel about what happened, or our utter condemnation of it, and I am pleased that this issue has received greater attention here, including from Parliament, over recent months.
What are your medium term expectations regarding the economic and political progress of the Kurdistan Region?
There’s clearly huge potential. I hope that the Kurdistan Region will continue its economic and political progress, and act as an example of stability and prosperity in a turbulent region.
There are challenges, though. Partly, these come from wider instability in the region. We hope that the KRG will be able to come to an agreement with the federal Government on their dispute over hydrocarbons, which could offer a ‘win-win’ by providing more certainty for all.