Long-Awaited Kurdish National Conference to Take Place in Erbil Next Month

President Mesûd Barzani’s speech at the National Kurdish Conference…

The meeting is to mainly focus on the situation of Kurds in Syria and Turkey who are facing major political developments, with Syrian Kurds contemplating autonomy for their areas and Kurds in Turkey in the middle of a historical peace process with Ankara.

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, who has sent invitations to all Kurdish groups in the region, is seen as the driving force behind the conference.

“On behalf of myself, Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Abdulla Ocalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader, I ask you to send your high level delegations to participate in the National Kurdish Conference,” Barzani’s invitation reads.

To set the conference agenda and procedure, Barzani met with representatives of 39 Kurdish political parties from across the Middle East on Monday, telling them that the main aim of the conference is to promote dialogue, peace and democracy among Kurdish groups and “to ensure that the will of the Kurdish people in all four parts of Kurdistan is respected.”

Despite serious political disagreements between Kurdistan Region’s opposition groups and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) over the extension of his presidency, opposition leaders have welcomed Barzani’s initiative and promised to attend the conference.

“Our group has already appointed a delegation to attend the conference,” Muhammad Rauf, a senior official from the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), told Rudaw.

Rauf said that political disputes should not come in the way of such an important conference to address the Kurdish question in the region, saying, “The conference has nothing to do with the current internal problems.”

According to Kardo Muhammed, the head of the Change Movement (Gorran)’s parliamentary bloc, Gorran may also send its leader Nawshirwan Mustafa to the conference.

The Islamic League (Komal), another opposition group, expressed its support to the conference as well.

The aim of the conference – that of bringing all Kurdish parties closer – appears to be already bearing fruit.

“Being an opposition group doesn’t mean standing against every decision made in Erbil,” said Muhammad Tofiq, an official from the Islamic League (Komal).

KDP’s main ally, the PUK is behind this conference, believing it is happening at the right time.

“The situation is now suitable for such a conference,” said Saadi Ahmed Pira, a senior PUK leader. “It is time for the Kurds to gather and discuss self-determination.”

According to Pira, Iran and Turkey who are usually wary of Kurdish plans, have also consented to this conference.

Kurds from Turkey will feature greatly in the conference, by assigning six delegates to travel to Erbil.

Ahmed Deniz, a PKK spokesperson told Rudaw that the group’s acting leader Murat Karayilan and Barzani have already met to discuss the path and goals of the planned conference.

“We have conveyed our thoughts about the conference and also learned about the opinion of the other side,” Deniz said.

To dispel any suspicions by neighboring countries about the true agenda of the conference, Ahmet Turk, co-founder of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), told Rudaw:  “We do not aim to create a united Kurdistan. We will gather to tell ourselves what we as Kurds should do in the Middle East.”

However, Gorran’s Kardo Muhammad urged all parties to discuss in earnest the idea and possibility of an independent Kurdish state at the conference.

But Rauf said the agenda of the conference is to discuss the situation of the Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria and possibly put forward the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq as a solution for their current struggles.

BDP representative in Erbil, Mehmet Aydin said that his party “will do whatever it takes to make the conference a success.”

He added that Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader, has endorsed the conference and “is eager to see it become a reality.”

Mustafa Hijri, secretary general of Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), also said that his party sees this gathering as an opportunity that could bring Kurds in the Middle East ever more closer to a unity.