Kurds Unite Front for First Regional Summit, Official Says

Kurdish groups from Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria plan to meet for the first time to forge a united political stance amid rising regional instability.

The meeting will be “the first congress to be held on Kurdish land, and the first to gather all Kurdish parties and groups from across the political spectrum,” Kawa Mahmoud, spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, said in a telephone interview from Erbil. “The congress isn’t meant to form a unified, centralized leadership, but to unify our positions at a time of regional turmoil.”

A committee will decide the date of the congress, which probably will be held in August in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish-dominated region in Iraq, he said. The panel was formed yesterday at a meeting in Erbil of 39 political groups from all four countries led by Massoud Barzani, the president of Kurdish northern Iraq, according to the KRG website.

A wave of unrest across the Middle East has fueled aspirations among some Kurds of forging their own state in the region they call “Kurdistan,” a land straddling the borders of eastern Turkey, northeast Syria, northern Iraq and northwestern Iran. After the Ottoman Empire dissolved at the end of World War I, the winning allies divided the region into states without forming an independent Kurdish entity.

The Turkish government and Kurdish rebels began talks this year to end a three-decade-old war. Kurdish communities in Syria have taken control of their regions since the outbreak of unrest in the country in 2011. In Iran, many Kurdish political activists remain in jail.

Oil Interest

In Iraq, Kurdish uprisings were crushed under the Arab-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein. Since a U.S.-led invasion ousted him in 2003, the KRG has cemented its control over three provinces in northern Iraq, with a president, cabinet and parliament, as well as armed forces of its own. The region, with 5.2 million residents according to the KRG, has 45 billion barrels of oil and has attracted international companies such as Chevron Corp., Total SA, Exxon Mobil Corp, DNO International ASA and Genel Energy Plc.

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