17 January 2022, Monday, 11:18
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“Little Damascus” in the Center of Minsk

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“Little Damascus” in the Center of Minsk
Alexander Fridman

Why do the Belarusian authorities keep silent about the meetings of the Belarusian ambassador to Turkey with representatives of the Kurds?

Both Kurdish politicians and the Kurdish press yesterday paid special attention to the fate of migrants from Kurdistan in Belarus. At the same time, the publications separately emphasized that it was the Belarusian side that used physical violence against the Kurds, and at least three natives of Kurdistan had died in recent days. If the Kurdish press used to regularly write about what is happening in Poland and Belarus, then the political elite of Iraqi Kurdistan, who had been indifferently watching the situation for a long time, has become more active only now: the Ambassador of Belarus to Turkey (and concurrently to Iraq) Viktar Rybak, who has worked for many years in Iran and is one of the main specialists on this region in the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, has arrived in Kurdistan from Ankara. And it was the meetings between the leadership of Kurdistan Autonomous Region and Rybak that became one of the key political topics in Kurdistan.

The reasons for the increased interest, however, should be sought not so much in Minsk and Erbil as in Baghdad and Berlin. That is where the information about the agreements between Germany (the EU) and Iraq on joint actions to prevent illegal migration through Belarus came from at the end of last week: the Iraqi direction became a priority for the FRG because the majority of migrants from Belarus in Germany are citizens of that country. Although the details of the agreement were not disclosed, the Iraqi side was apparently satisfied with its terms and became a call to action.

Immediately after the news from Berlin, the Barzani clan joined the game, in whose hands are the main levers of government in Kurdistan and which is fully responsible for the economic problems and corruption in the region. A demonstrative meeting with Rybak allows the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Masrour Barzani and his father, former President Massoud Barzani, to solve two problems at once:

1) the authorities demonstrate to the population that they care about their citizens who find themselves in Poland and Belarus.

2) in the eyes of Europe (Germany), Kurdistan appears as a reliable partner that fulfills its obligations.

Why is the official Minsk silent about Rybak's meetings? And why was the visit of the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran to Belarus not covered last week? The Belarusian authorities have no particular reason to be happy: after the problems in the Iranian direction, difficulties are now expected in Kurdistan, from where a significant part of the migrants came. And next in line are Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt, through which the transit of migrants from Iraq, Yemen, and other countries goes and with which the EU, it seems, is already conducting backstage negotiations.

Although the room for maneuver for the Lukashenka regime is significantly narrowing, this does not mean that the migration crisis is coming to naught: now, most likely, Syria will come to the fore, with which official Minsk has excellent relations, direct flights have been established, and which is ideal for the role main supplier of migrants (Palestinians from refugee camps in particular). However, Brussels, Berlin, and even Washington can do little with Damascus: only Moscow, Tehran, and, perhaps, Beijing can influence the Syrian dictatorship today.

"Little Baghdad" near Minsk's Niamiha is at risk of turning into "little Damascus."

Alexander Fridman, t.me