Aggravation of the Kurdish problem is one of the most significant consequences of the transformations taking place in the Middle East. This issue was discussed during the sixth session of the Valdai Club Middle East conference, titled “The Fate of the Kurds: A Central Issue?”
The participants stressed the lack of due attention to the problem from the international community and international governance institutions. Hemin Hawrami, member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Leadership Council, senior assistant to President Massoud Barzani, rather sharply expressed the position of the Kurds, saying that they are “fed up” with the position of some global actors and the international community that the time to realize the Kurdish people’s aspirations have not come yet. He demanded to define when such time would come. For centuries, Kurds have lived in the territories of modern Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, but they are regarded as second-rate people, as people who are not capable for self-government. Violations of the Iraqi constitution articles, including federalization, forced the Kurds to hold a referendum and to demonstrate once again that they want to be free citizens in their own country. Moreover, they are a factor of stability in the region, given the contribution of the Kurds to the fight against terrorism in the Middle East.
Bakhtiar Amin, the Iraqi Human Rights Minister (2004-2005), said that the Kurds would not live forever as migrants on the land of their ancestors, where there are attempts to Arabize and Turkize them. He also warned that in case of recurrence of the situation in Afrin, a new wave of migrants from the Middle East could pour into Europe.
Nir Rosen, Syria and Iraq advisor from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, agreed that Afrin will influence the whole situation in the region. Afrin is the first victim of US policy, which uses the Kurds in its struggle against Iran and for maintaining its positions in the region, primarily for the sake of control over the oil fields, he said. The situation is complicated by the fact that there is no common opinion within the US administration about the Kurdish problem. At the same time, Rosen noted that Kurds can become part of the solution, not part of the problem in Syria. For this, it is necessary to reintegrate them with simultaneous decentralization of the country and support for pluralism.
The participants agreed that the Kurdish problem is divided into four parts – Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria – and in each case there is its own agenda and its own approach. The referendum on the independence of the Iraqi Kurdistan in 2017 is the first open application for acquisition of full sovereignty. At the same time, according to one expert, the Syrian Kurds have more chances of independence if Syria is recognized as a failed state.
Israel fears possible transformation of Syria into the satellite of Iran, said Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel (2015–2016), Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN (1997–1999). According to him, Israel is ready to take measures against the weapons supplies to Hezbollah.
During the discussion, the experts also touched upon Russia’s position on the Kurdish issue. Hawrami said that it was rather balanced and expressed the hope that this line would continue. Russia tries to avoid unambiguous statements on the Kurdish issue and builds equal relations with both the central authorities and the leaders of the Kurdish movements in Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
The participants proposed to set up a commission or committee under the UN auspices, which would be able to solve the Kurdish problem by diplomatic means, since there is no military solution.