Transcript: UN Secretary General’s statement during Erbil visit press conference

Ladies and gentlemen of the press – thank you for your presence.

I am very glad to be back in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

In my previous visits to the area, including as High Commissioner for Refugees, I was always deeply touched by the generosity and solidarity of the Kurdish people towards those fleeing conflict and catastrophe.

Today, amidst the devastation of the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to you for once again extending a helping hand.

I have just concluded fruitful meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament.

I thanked them for the close partnership with the United Nations.

We discussed relations with Baghdad and as I said there, moving from constant crisis management to a more structured, institutionalized dialogue is in the interest – and to the benefit – of all.

A number of issues require agreement, including: the 2023 federal budget, the oil and gas law, stronger security cooperation, the swift implementation of the Sinjar agreement, and the finalization of the Kirkuk Dialogue.

But in my discussions both here and in Baghdad, I sensed a genuine commitment to move forward and I urge all to translate this commitment into reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good governance, respect for human rights and the freedom of expression, as well as inclusive political and electoral processes, are bedrocks of stability and drivers of prosperity.

I encourage all political actors across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to work together to ensure that the delayed parliamentary elections take place this year.

Diverse – even opposing – viewpoints as well as constructive criticism are the lifeblood of any democracy.

Despite spirited differences, I urge all to put the interests of the people in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq first.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press,

Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and good neighbourliness is essential at all times.

I urge all to pursue dialogue and diplomacy and exercise maximum restraint to prevent further instability and contain the risks of regional escalation.

Finally, let me repeat what I said in Baghdad: my visit is one of solidarity and hope for the future.

But achieving a better tomorrow requires action today. It demands determined diplomacy, constructive dialogue – and the courage to make the necessary compromises.

After my meetings and discussions, I am convinced that important progress is now entirely possible.

The United Nations stands with the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to help build that better future that they deserve.

Allow me a personal note. I came to this region many times in the past as High Commissioner for Refugees and I came as Secretary-General in a dramatic moment when Daesh was close and when fighting was fierce. And I learned to have an enormous admiration for the generosity and solidarity of the Kurdish people. I want to say that in my opinion we are now facing an opportunity for Iraq and an opportunity for the Kurdistan region of Iraq. That opportunity can translate itself into reality if Iraqis are able to come together and unite and if people in this region people can also come together and unite.

Iraq is potentially a rich country that can guarantee to its people a future of prosperity. I strongly hope that this will soon become a full reality.

Thank you.

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