Iraqi coalition rejects calls for normalization with Israel – a conference in Erbil/Iraqi Kurdistan

More than 300 Iraqis attended a conference in Erbil organised by a US think-tank demanding a normalisation of relations between Iraq and Israel - September 24 (Safin Hamed - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  September 25, 2021

An Iraqi coalition on Saturday condemned calls for normalization with Israel made at a conference in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, Anadolu Agency reported.

“We condemn and reject the conferences, gatherings, and calls for normalization with the usurping Zionist entity that are held inside Iraq,” Ammar al-Hakim, the head of the Shia National Wisdom Alliance, said in a statement.

The alliance holds 19 out of 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

Al-Hakim said the Palestinian cause is a top Arab and Muslim issue that his alliance will continue to support.

“We renew our full support for the Palestinian people and their just cause and their struggle to recover their usurped right,” Al-Hakim said.

On Friday, a peace conference was held in Erbil by some Sunni and Shia tribal figures who called for the normalization of relations between Iraq and Israel.

“We are a gathering of Sunnis and Shias, comprising members of the Sunni Awakening Movement of the Sons of Iraq, as well as intellectuals, tribal leaders, and active youth from the protest movement of 2019-2021,” a statement by the conference participants said.

It added, “We call for Iraq to enter into relations with Israel and its people through agreements similar to the Arab countries that have normalized.”

The statement said that it continues to oppose all Sunni jihadists and Iranian-backed Shia extremists.

Authorities in Baghdad and Erbil have yet to comment on the conference statement.

Iraq does not have relations with Israel and the idea of normalization is widely rejected in the country.

Last year, four Arab nations – the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco – normalized their relations with Israel, a move denounced by Palestinians as a betrayal to its cause.

Conference on normalizing ties with Israel held without KRG’s awareness [?] – KRG spokesperson

Dilan Sirwan

Rudaw  /  September 25, 2021

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will “take necessary measures” in response to a conference held in Erbil discussing normalization of ties with Israel held without government approval, the KRG spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.

“The KRG was not made aware of this conference, and it was held without our approval or knowledge,” said Jotiar Adil, KRG spokesperson. 

“The views of the conference do not reflect the views and policies of the KRG,” he added. “The KRG will take necessary measures to follow up on how this meeting was held.”

The statement comes after a group of Sunnis and Shiites from across the country met in Erbil on Friday and called for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords, a US-led joint Middle East peace initiative between Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE, Sudan and Israel.

The meeting was put on by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications [founded by Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi-Jewish origin], which advocates for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa.

The conference came under attack by several Shiite groups and was also slammed by the Iraqi government.

The head of an Iranian-backed Iraq militia slammed the conference as “disgraceful” and called on the KRG to take action rather than just saying they were not made aware.

“The Islamic opposition will not remain quiet about this great betrayal, and we will give the Israeli enemy and those who have normalized ties with them a lesson that will stop all who think of normalization,” Qais al-Khazali, the secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, said in a statement on Saturday.

“We ask the Kurdistan Regional Government for a clear stance and action against this disgraceful and offensive act towards the honorable Iraqis, and a statement of lack of awareness is not enough,” he added.

The Kurdistan Region’s ministry of interior had earlier in the day also said that the conference “was organized by independent actors without the Kurdistan Regional Government’s approval, knowledge, or participation.” The Kurdistan Region Presidency said in a statement that it was in no way aware of the content of the conference and that the outcomes in no way represent the policy and stance of the Kurdistan Region.

The Iraqi Presidency also expressed disapproval of the conference.

“At a time when the Presidency of the Republic affirms Iraq’s firm position and support for the Palestinian cause and the implementation of the full legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, it renews Iraq’s categorical rejection of the issue of normalization with Israel, and calls for respecting the will of the Iraqis and their independent national decision,” read a statement from the Presidency’s spokesperson.

The statement added that the meeting did not “represent the people and residents of Iraqi cities, but rather the positions of those who participated in it, in addition to being an attempt to inflame the general situation and target civil peace.”

Several militia groups have released statements on PMF Telegram channels threatening to “burn down” places where “traitors” and “evil bases” are located. 

The Iraqi prime minister earlier today called the meeting “illegal,” saying that normalization is “constitutionally, legally, and politically rejected in the Iraqi state.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the meeting in a tweet Saturday, saying this “call for peace with Israel … comes from below and not above, from the people and not from the government.” He said that the meeting is an important recognition of the “historical injustice done to the Jews of Iraq” and that “the State of Israel is reaching out … for peace.”

The Kurdistan Region and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, but have enjoyed friendly ties. Israel has purchased Kurdish oil and backed the 2017 independence referendum.