Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 June 2019

Nechirvan Barzani sworn in as president of Iraqi Kurdistan

Barzani is seen as a the leader who will ease tensions between Baghdad and Erbil

President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, after casting his vote at a polling station in Erbil during parliamentary elections in September 2018. Reuters 
President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, after casting his vote at a polling station in Erbil during parliamentary elections in September 2018. Reuters 

Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Monday inaugurated Nechirvan Barzani as its president as part of efforts to complete the formation of the Kurdish cabinet.

Mr Barzani, a prominent figure of the Kurdish Democratic Party, is the nephew of former Kurdish president Masoud Barzani, who resigned in 2017 after a failed bid for independence from Iraq.

The controversial referendum backfired on Mr Barzani and sparked a crisis between Iraq’s Kurds and Baghdad.

“I swear to God that I will defend the rights, achievements, unity and interests of the people of Kurdistan, and fulfil my responsibility properly and with loyalty,” said the new president while taking his oath.

Iraqi President Barham Salih and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu were among the regional leaders who attended the ceremony.

Mr Barzani, 52, served as prime minister of the KRG from 2006. His family have dominated Iraqi Kurdish politics for generations. He is seen by many in Erbil as the leader who will ease tensions with the central government and deliver stability.

"This is the benchmark: peace and prosperity in the region," President Salih said during a speech at the ceremony.

Mr Barzani is expected to announce Masrour Barzani, the current security chief and son of former president Masoud Barzani, as prime minister.

Both Masrour and Nechirvan have occupied senior roles in the Kurdistan region throughout the last decade.

Hiwa Afandi, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's department of technology, said on Twitter that the inauguration of Mr Barzani presents a new era for the region.

“We look forward to witnessing a better future and a more prosperous Kurdistan. Congratulations to President Nechirvan Barzani, who is among very few who are capable of shouldering such a responsibility,” said Mr Afandi.

Falah Mustafa, the KRG's Minister of Foreign Relations, said on Twitter that "a young visionary statesman is ready to lead our people to prosperity with hope and optimism".

Relations between the KRG and the previous Iraqi administration – led by former prime minister Haider Al Abadi – were strained by sanctions imposed by Baghdad’s central government following the 2017 independence referendum. Federal troops were also sent to push Kurdish forces out of oilfields vital for the region's economy.

The two have improved relations under the current Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Updated: June 11, 2019 11:09 AM

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