The Kurdistan Democratic Union (KCK) on Saturday congratulated Abdul Latif Rashid, a veteran Kurdish politician, who was elected as the new president by the Iraqi Parliament on Thursday.
“Although one year has passed since the elections, we consider the election of the Iraqi President by the parliament as a positive and important step,” said the KCK, an umbrella group that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The KCK wished Rashid success, adding that it believed the new president would make great contributions towards a democratic solution to the problems faced by both the Iraqi and the Kurdish people.
Rashid “is an important personality who has made important services for the freedom of the people of Kurdistan and therefore enjoys their love and respect. The people of Kurdistan know him as an intellectual with patriotic feelings, who has served the freedom of the Kurdish people and has thus made significant contributions to the struggle for freedom,” the umbrella group said.
Rashid’s election came in the midst of intensifying Turkish aggression against PKK targets in northern Iraq and a week after the assassination of Kurdish feminist academic Nagihan Akarsel in Sulaymaniyah, which, according to Kurdish groups, was a Turkish intelligence operation.
“We and the Kurdish people strongly believe that the Iraqi government, especially the Iraqi President, will take a clear stance against the Turkish state’s occupying and genocidal Neo-Ottomanist policy that aims to subjugate the peoples of the region,” the KCK said.
Rashid, a 78-year-old, British-educated hydraulic engineer, is expected to mend ties between the Iraqi government and the country’s Kurdish population.
Sulaymaniyah-born Rashid joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the 1960s, before engaging with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the mid-1970s, within a student opposition movement.
Between 2003 and 2010, Rashid served as Iraq’s water resources minister, a job that required dealing with disputes with Turkey over the sharing of the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
Rashid, who is known to be close to PUK founder Jalal Talabani. was elected in the second round of voting in the parliament, after the opposition Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Massoud Barzani, agreed to withdraw its candidate.
Iraqi Kurdistan has been autonomous since 1991, and its politics have been dominated by the political rivalry between the ruling KDP and the PUK.
The KDP and the Turkish government have deepened political and economic ties since 2015, the year peace negotiations between Ankara and the PKK leadership collapsed. The PKK has repeatedly accused the KDP of collaborating with the Turkish government, which has launched two cross-border operations into Kurdish populated northern Iraq since 2017 and has made its military footprint in the region permanent by building up bases.