Mr Qubad Talabani, KRG Deputy Prime Minister led a delegation to the UK that included Rebaz Hamlan, Minister of Finance, Amanj Rahim, the Cabinet Secretary and KRG officials to meet a wide variety of political leaders and to host an economic roundtable.
Accompanied by Karwan Jamal Tahir, the KRG High Representative to UK, the KRG delegation first met the UK's Middle East Minister, Tobias Elwood. The KRG delegation stressed the need to develop relations between Kurdistan Region and United Kingdom. Mr Talabani also highlighted recent political and security developments in Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the whole region. He highlighted the Peshmerga's victories in the fight against ISIS and the military and other needs of the Peshmerga, which require further direct support from the international community.
As for relations between Baghdad and Erbil, the Deputy Prime Minister also stressed Kurdistan's commitment to the agreement on oil exports and budget payments and that Baghdad has not fully complied with the agreement in sending budgetary entitlements to the Kurdistan Region. As a result, the Kurdistan Region is suffering a major financial crisis and he urged Tobias Ellwood to help solve the issue soon.
The humanitarian needs of refugees and IDPs was another major talking point. Mr Talabani said: “in addition to the financial crisis, the KRG makes all efforts to support and securing refugees' needs”, and added that “such a huge number of refugees is a burden on the KRG,”, therefore requesting further support from the UK government and NGOs.
Minister Tobias Elwood praised the bravery of Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS, and reiterated his country's support for the Kurdistan Region, and his country’s will to develop ties between Kurdistan and UK. On the Baghdad/Erbil dispute, he confirmed that the British Government understands the issues and he will see Iraqi officials in Baghdad to help find a solution.
The KRG delegation and the High Representative, also met Gwynne Jenkins, the Deputy advisor of the UK National Security Council. Mr Talabani updated him and urged further humanitarian and military support to the Kurdistan Region. Mr Jenkins warmly welcomed the delegation, reiterated the British commitment to bilateral ties, and that the UK will continue as part of the international coalition in the fight against ISIS and to support the Peshmerga, whose bravery and successes are impressive.
The KRG delegation participated in an economic roundtable, organised by the FCO, with many economists and experts. The KRG ministers briefed the meeting on the worsening financial situation in Kurdistan, which cannot pay salaries and whose investment projects have stalled due to Baghdad's budget cuts and shortfalls as well as the war against ISIS and the cost of refugees and IDPs. In requesting assistance, the delegation outlined efforts to minimise problems. The British side reiterated their support for the KRG, and vowed to maintain this.
In two meetings in the UK Treasury, Rebaz Hamlan, the KRG Finance Minister, briefed officials about the financial crisis facing the Kurdistan Region. He said: “the KRG has tried in many ways to minimise this crisis, including cuts in public expenditure”. He asked UK Treasury officials to contribute their expertise. British officials and financial experts showed their willingness to assist the KRG on how to deal with this financial crisis.
The delegation also met senior members of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region, including British-Kurdish and Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi and others from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National parties.
KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Finance Minister Rebaz Hamlan and Cabinet Secretary Amanj Rahim together with Karwan Jamal Tahir, the KRG High Representative met the London Mayor Boris Johnson and his Deputy, Sir Edward Lister.
Mr Talabani congratulated the London Mayor for winning a parliamentary seat and updated them about the Kurdish fight against ISIS and the financial and humanitarian crises. He urged further humanitarian and military support to the Kurdistan Region.
Boris Johnson referred to his last visit to Kurdistan where he was impressed with the kindness of the people of Kurdistan Region towards such huge number of refugees and IDPs. He also valued the brave role of Peshmerga forces and vowed to raise this in the UK Cabinet.
Mr Talabani told the Mayor of London that “we should all try together to launch an international media campaign to confront the ISIS terrorists' extremist media and ideology."