Foreign relations of Iraqi Kurdistan

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Iraqi Kurdistan

Foreign relations of Iraqi Kurdistan refers to external relations of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq with states and organizations. Foreign relations are conducted by Kurdistan Regional Government (KGR). Political stability and rapidly developing economy have given the KRG the opportunity to pursue an energetic and broad foreign policy. The KRG's dynamic foreign relations are integral components of the Kurdistan Region's economic and social development. The KRG's primary body for directing its foreign affairs is the Department of Foreign Relations (DFR). The DFR's foremost objectives are to raise the global profile of the Kurdistan Region, improve the Region's international ties with various governments and international organizations, and present the emerging opportunities in the Kurdistan Region to regional and international actors.[1]

The KRG's foreign policy vision has paved the way for the establishment of various diplomatic representations in Kurdistan. A total of 32 countries have diplomatic presence in Erbil, with Canada, India and Pakistan recently announcing plans to establish diplomatic missions. Multinational bodies, including the EU, UN, ICRC, JICA, and the KOICA also have offices in Kurdistan. This significant diplomatic presence demonstrates the confidence that foreign governments place in the Kurdistan Region. Additionally, the KRG's presence abroad has also grown significantly since 2007. Currently the KRG has representative offices in 14 countries.[1]

Department of Foreign Relations

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) established the Department of Foreign Relations (DFR) in September 2006 to conduct relations with the international community. Today, the DFR is an integral part of the government, with a wide ranging portfolio of responsibilities. DFR is headed by Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir from 2006. The KRG Department of Foreign Relations is mandated to promote the interests of the Kurdistan Region and its people in regard to relations with the international community and in accordance with the Region's legislation and the Constitution of Iraq.

The key responsibilities of the department include:

Bilateral relations

UK Minister for Trade and Investment Ian Livingston talks with Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Nechervan Barzani in London, on 19 May 2014.


There has been limited diplomatic relations between India and Iraqi Kurdistan. India purchases Kurdish crude oil sold through Turkish companies. Several Indian citizens work in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many Kurds travel to India for educational or medical purposes. In July 2014, Hemin Hawrani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party's international relations wing, told the The Hindu that he hoped for deeper political and economic ties with India, describing the country as "an important partner". Hawrani also expressed his desire to see the Indian government open a consulate in Erbil, and invited Indian companies to invest in Kurdistan.[2] In November 2014, the Indian government sent special envoy Ambassador Suresh K. Reddy to visit Kurdistan and meet Kurdish government officials. Reddy stated that India "fully supports the Kurdistan Region during this difficult time", and expressed confidence in the Kurdish government and the Peshmerga forces to preserve the stability and security of the region. The Ambassador also praised the role of Peshmerga forces in fighting ISIL, and announced that the Indian government would open a consulate in Kurdistan.[3]


In 2004 was reported about the meetings of Israeli officials with Kurdish political leaders when Massoud Barzani, Jalal Talabani and the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon publicly confirmed the good relations of Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan.[4] The President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani answered a question while visiting Kuwait in May 2006 about the Kurdish–Israeli relationship: "It is not a crime to have relations with Israel. If Baghdad established diplomatic relations with Israel, we could open a consulate in Erbil." In a policy address in 2014, Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. He said: "The Kurds are a fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they're also worthy of their own political independence."[5]


The best example of the Kurdistan Region's evolving relations with its neighbors is its relationship with Turkey. Flourishing trade between the two, an influx of Turkish investment, and energy agreements have paved the way for increasing geopolitical cooperation, and helped overcome decades of tension. This expanding partnership, built upon mutual economic interests, was symbolized by the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to the Kurdistan Region in March 2011, the first such visit by a Turkish leader. Increasing trade volumes between Turkey and Kurdistan ($8.4 billion in 2012) empirically demonstrate the importance of this developing relationship.[1] Past tensions have been supplanted by a new energy partnership and Turkey seems far less worried about the prospect of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan. In May 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government cut a deal to build one gas and two oil pipelines directly from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to Turkey without the approval of Baghdad, taking the rapprochement started between the two in 2009 one step further.[6]

Consulate General of Turkey in Erbil was established in March 2010.[7] Iraqi Kurdistan does not yet have representative office in Turkey.

United Kingdom

The UK is providing some military equipment including heavy machine guns and training.[8]

Consulate General of the United Kingdom in Erbil was established in January 2007. Iraqi Kurdistan have representative office in the United Kingdom in London.

United States

Currently the United States has official policy towards the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. US Kurdish policy starting initially with "contacts" to a covert "relationship" and finally to an overt "institutionalized relationship" embodied in an official US Kurdish policy. The change of US interaction with the Kurds from humanitarian assistance to strategic partnership as a non-state ally and an asset is testimony to the enhanced role of the Kurdistan Region in the international relations of the Middle East.[9] Deepening KRG–US economic relations was supported by establishment of the United States Kurdistan Business Council (USKBC) in April 2012. In the same month President of Kurdistan Region, President Masud Barzani, visited Washington, D.C. and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.[10]

The Consulate General of the United States in Erbil was established in July 2011.[10] Iraqi Kurdistan have a representative office in the United States from February 2007.[11]

Relations with international organisations

Iraqi Kurdistan holds 'member' or 'observer' status in only one international organisation.

International organisation Status Representation Application date Admission date Notes
Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) member Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan 11 February 1991 Iraqi Kurdistan is founding member of the UNPO.

Participation in international sports federations

Iraqi Kurdistan holds 'member' status in two international sports federations.

International organisation Status Representation Application date Admission date Notes
N.F.-Board member Iraqi Kurdistan Football Association December 2008 In 2008, a Iraqi Kurdistani team participated for the first time in the Viva World Cup. Iraqi Kurdistan hosted Viva World Cup in 2012 and won it.
CONIFA member Iraqi Kurdistan Football Association June 2013 In May 2016, a Iraqi Kurdistan will participate in the ConIFA World Football Cup hosted by Abkhazia.

See also


External links

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