Italian lawmakers demand Rome supports KRG

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By Rudaw 19 hours ago
Then Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (R) greetsKurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani before their meeting on March 2, 2015 at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. File photo: Getty Images/ Tiziana Fabi
ROME, Italy – A number of Italian senators and members of parliament have voiced their support for the Kurdistan Region after Iraq’s military operations against the Kurdish-held areas. They demand Italy make its position clear by supporting Erbil and urge Baghdad to respect the constitutional rights of the Kurds.

Senator Ricardo Mazzoni, deputy head of the human rights office at the senate, described events in Iraq as “unfortunate,” highlighting the fact that the Peshmerga were the first to put up a fight against ISIS in 2014 while the Iraqi army was in retreat.

He said that the people of Kurdistan have earned the right to determine their fate through a referendum after decades of sacrifices.

“The referendum had a clear outcome that the majority of the Kurdish people want independence for Kurdistan,” Senator Mazzoni said.

This legitimate right of the Kurdish people needs to be supported by the international community, “especially the Italian government has to work in this regard knowing that it has always been close to the Kurdish people,” he added.

He said it is time for Italy to break the silence against Iraq’s punitive measures and help the Kurds return to areas they previously held, including the oil-rich and diverse city of Kirkuk.

He said he hoped that the Italian government will declare its “clear and loud” position in support for the Kurdistan Region.

Umberto D’Ottavio, from the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said that he will join a number of other MPs to present a motion to the Italian government demanding Rome declare its stance on the dispute between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. He said that the people of Kurdistan must be given the right to express their opinion in a free manner.

The Iraqi government took a number of measures against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in response to the independence vote including military operations and an international flight ban.

Baghdad considers the vote unconstitutional and had demanded the KRG annul its results. The Kurdish leadership has so far offered to freeze the outcome of the vote in exchange for open dialogue.

Senator Luigi Manconi believed there are efforts to forget the Peshmerga contribution to the war against ISIS and to “suffocate Kurdistan.”

He accused the Iraqi government of failing to respect the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan Region and other agreements it has with the KRG. He pointed to Baghdad’s slashing the KRG’s share of the budget and lack of funds for the Peshmerga as violations.

The budget bill proposed by Baghdad allocated 12.6 percent share of the Iraqi budget, much less than the KRG’s demand for 17 percent. It is the first time Baghdad in practice has attempted to cut the KRG’s budget since the establishment of the new Iraq in 2003.

Manconi described the Kurdistan Region as “unique” where various ethno-religious groups coexist peacefully, a fact that must be recognized.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Italian parliament, said they have already expressed their opposition to the use of force against the Kurdistan Region and added that the committee will meet with Italian authorities to discuss the matter in December. He hoped that the situation will remain calm until then and urged Baghdad and Erbil to begin talks.

Senator Lucio Malan said the Italian government should take an official stance to “protect and defend the Kurdish people” that fell victim to military attacks by Iranian-backed Shiite militia, and “even Iranian militia.” He said the use of the militias against Erbil is in violation of the Iraqi constitution.

Kurdistan deserves the attention of Italy and the Vatican, not only because it fought against ISIS, but also because it welcomes religious minorities, Christians in particular, he explained.

“The people of Kurdistan must not be left alone. They are not alone and we hope that our government will have its own stance,” Malan said.

More than 180,000 people fled their homes in the immediate days that followed the military incursion by Iraqi forces and Shiite militia on October 16 into Kirkuk and other disputed areas, according to the United Nations.

Kurdish officials say hundreds of Christians from disputed areas of the Nineveh Plains fled their homes when Iraqi forces bombarded some of these areas with artillery.

Italy is a member of the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS. Rome enjoys close ties with Erbil, a relationship that strengthened during the war against ISIS.

Former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani visited the country in 2014 before the war and met with Italian officials and the Pope. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani visited the following year.

Italian PM Matteo Renzi visited Erbil in August 2014, shortly after the Kurdistan Region went into battle against ISIS.

Italian military trainers have worked with the Peshmerga and Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti visited Erbil in February this year. She praised the role of the Peshmerga and said Italy’s support for the Kurdish soldiers will continue.