Thursday, 22 January 2009, 05:01 GMT
Barzani stresses need for stronger relations between Arabs and Kurds

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani


President Barzani called for stronger relation between Kurds and Arabs in Mosul.

Iraq's Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani called for stronger relations between Kurds and Arabs and stressed the need for more tolerance. He made these remarks to a gathering of Arab tribal leaders from the Mosul province, who were invited to Erbil .

The President said that the Kurdistan Region will remain a sanctuary for all Iraqis fleeing violence and instability in other parts of Iraq . He noted that more than 25,000 displaced families from other parts of Iraq have found safety and refuge in the Kurdistan Region.

President Barzani also referred to the historical bonds of friendship between Kurds and Arabs in Mosul.

"We don't have any ambitions in Mosul . Mosul is a place for all Iraq 's ethnic and religious communities -- Kurds, Arabs, Turkomens, Assyrians, and Chaldeans. Mosul is an example of peaceful co-existence and tolerance of all these communities," the President added.

In response to calls to form support councils in the Kurdistan Region and adjacent areas, the President said, "We support all attempts to fight terrorism but the goals of forming support councils are something else. Under the guise of setting up support councils, some criminals who were involved in the Anfal operations [ a genocidal campaign against the Kurds by the former regime in late 1980s] were asked to take part. This is treachery and a vicious act. Talk about establishing supporting councils in Kurdistan is prohibited and we consider it as treason against us"

The President added that if Arabs take part in forming support councils in adjacent areas to the Kurdistan Region, they will help to trigger a conflict.

After the President's initial remarks, several tribal leaders participated in the meeting and raised some issues of public concern in Mosul . One of the participants asked President Barzani to ease travel restrictions for travellers from Mosul to the Kurdistan Region. He also asked for the release of detainees from Mosul who are held in the Region.

In response, President Barzani said that travel restrictions are applied to all travellers to the Region regardless of their ethnic or religious background. He said that these are purely security measures designed to protect people living in the Kurdistan Region. Despite this, the President promised to work to further ease restrictions for travellers to the Region.

As for releasing detainees from Mosul held in the Kurdistan Region, President Barzani said that any detainees not involved with terrorist activities will be released.

President Barzani rebuffed allegations that the Kurds have ambitions to take control of Mosul . "I urge you to be wary of allegations that the Kurds have ambitions for Mosul and are on the verge of controlling Mosul . These assertions could have dangerous consequences. Incitement to sedition and discord is a heinous crime. I cannot claim that no offences or violations have been committed by any party member or officials. But let me reassure you that our policy calls for co-existence, mutual respect and compassion. At the same time, we cannot take any action on general accusations. I want people to be specific in their accusations. We will of course hold any offenders accountable."

"Occasionally we hear voices that maliciously accuse the Kurds of improper behaviour towards the people of Mosul . They want to cleanse Mosul of every last Kurd. This is of course also unacceptable. Mosul belongs to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, and Christians; it belongs to all communities, living in peace with one another. "