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Arab League Secretary General says no to a Kurdish state

Francesca Astorri

Published: Updated:

The Arab League has taken a clear position on the Kurdish call for independence.

“Today the Kurds are calling for a State of their own… why not the Yazidis, why not the Pashtuns, why not the Assyrians, why not lots of others?” said Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in his opening speech at NATO Defense College Foundation’s conference on Arab geopolitics in Rome, Italy.

Watch the conference live here

“History teaches us that separation and division create more violence and sometimes also ethnic cleansing”, explained Gheit, mentioning the Balkans’ experience as an example.

Kurds are considered the largest stateless minority in the world, with an estimated 30 million people scattered throughout Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia. With a referendum held at the end of September, the Kurds living in northern Iraq voted to secede from the country. Nearly 93 percent of voters cast their ballots for secession.

Aboul-Gheit told Al Arabiya that Egypt was watching Iran’s influence in the country closely along with Shiite Islamic institutions being founded in African countries bordering Egypt. (Al Arabiya)
Aboul-Gheit told Al Arabiya that Egypt was watching Iran’s influence in the country closely along with Shiite Islamic institutions being founded in African countries bordering Egypt. (Al Arabiya)

Inclusive process

“There is no room for exclusive political process, only an inclusive political process can bring people together and defend nation States. Fragmentation is not the answer”, said Gheit addressing NATO audience on Thursday in Rome.

Decentralization is a key measure that should be implemented, as central governments should give some autonomy to local communities, the Secretary General said.

Also read: France offers to mediate between Baghdad and Kurds

The Kurdish bid for autonomy wasn’t welcomed by Iraq’s central government, Turkey and Iran. Not even the United States, which is considered Kurds’ closest ally, supported the referendum, fearing instability and a decreased focus on fighting ISIS.

Focus on ISIS

“The focus which used to be like a laser beam on ISIS is now not 100 percent there, so there has been an effect on the overall mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq as a result of the referendum,” said Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

According to Gheit, the nation State can’t be changed as it is the basic structure of the Arab order, but sovereignty alone is not enough to enhance regional stability.

Also read: Coalition spokesman: Kurdish referendum caused loss of focus fighting ISIS

“State sovereignty is not enough as a guiding principle for a stable regional order. State sovereignty should be coupled with good governance and economic viability. Sovereignty alone can’t keep States away from disintegrating and fragmenting”, Gheit said.