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NOVEMBER 4-6, 2014
Dr. Salim Al-Jubouri, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament addresses the Forum. Seated are the President of Iraq, Dr. Fuad Masum and Prof. Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, President of MERI.
Dear Members and Associates of MERI,                                                                                                                                                   
The inaugural Forum of the Middle East Research Institute (MERI Forum 2014) was held from 4-6 November 2014 at the Rotana Hotel in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Forum attracted over 350 people each day and was covered extensively by local news channels and the international media along with a live stream provided through the MERI website.

The event was significant as it was the first time that the State President and Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, combined with the current and former Prime Ministers from the KRG, sat down together to debate current political issues. They were also given the opportunity to answer questions from an audience comprising of politicians, diplomats, academics, students and the public.

Debating Complex Issues

More importantly, it was the first time since ISIS advances in Iraq and Syria for policy- and decision-makers and academic experts to openly debate complex and sensitive issues. The panel discussions touched on a wide range of topics that have an impact on Iraq, Kurdistan and the region as a whole including the
future of disputed territories in Iraq; the war on ISIS; re-engaging the Sunnis; the role of Turkey in the neighbourhood; the changing US-Iran relationship and its impact on the region; the new Middle East Order; dialogue and reconciliation in Iraq and the future of Baghdad-KRG relations.

The ultimate objective of MERI Forum was to provide a neutral and independent setting for stakeholders to promote
peace, stability and prosperity in the wider Middle East through dialogue and reconciliation. This process and culture, we believe, is pivotal in determining the long-term stability of Iraq, the KRG and a building block for a shared future vision of the Middle East based on cooperative security. For too long, the region has been the preserve of wars, conflicts and crises which unfortunately continue to the present day, and have dented the socio-political and cultural fabric of regional states and societies.

Immediate Impact

Interestingly, the debate between Iraq’s Transport Minister, Baqir Jabr Al-Zubeidi, and the KRG Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources at the Forum, was followed last week by
breakthroughs in negotiations over the KRG budget and aviation traffic to Sulaimani Airport.  The Iraqi Prime Minister also responded to comments made by speakers at MERI Forum and encouraged his Oil Minister, Dr. Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to visit Erbil. The initial meeting between Erbil and Baghdad has resulted in an announcement that amendments will be made to Iraqi oil and gas laws and that more specialized powers will be given to provinces which have their own oil.

Furthermore, Salim Al-Jubouri floated the idea of a
Council of Wise Men for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Iraq during his talk which elicited a favourable response from the President of Iraq, Fuad Masum. Salim Al-Jabouri proposed that Fuad Masum should preside over such a Council to which the President assented. 


Organising the MERI Forum 2014, like all major events in Iraq, was not without its challenges, however, despite all challenges, the event received
positive feedback and there have been calls to make it an annual event.  We at MERI highly value formal and anonymous feedback from delegates and viewers, to help us improve future events.  A link to a feedback form is available for those who are keen to offer comments, suggestions and constructive criticisms.

Finally, we are pleased to make the full transcripts and videos of all the
Forum sessions available on our website (being uploaded over the next few days) and we hope you find the material useful for future use. We look forward to welcoming you to MERI Forum next year.

Yours Sincerely,

Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
President, MERI
We face an urgent need to unify all components of Iraqi society.
Fuad Masum, President of Iraq
Building trust and partnership is the only way to stop violence in the Middle East
Usama Al-Nujayfi, Vice President, Iraq
The greatest capital of the Kurdistan Region is good government and democracy.
Barham Salih, Former Prime Minister, KRG
Women are the raw material for the struggle against ISIS.
Gultan Kisanak, Co-Mayor, Diyarbakir
We can overcome the mistakes of the past.
Salim Al-Jubouri, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament
Peshmerga should be part of the Iraqi national defence force.
Baqir Jabr Al-Zubeidi, Minister of Transportation, Iraq
We are confident that we will settle the budget issue with Baghdad successfully.
Qubad Talabani, Deputy Prime Minister, KRG
ISIS has kidnapped 600 people in Kobane including children with majority of Kurdish villages deserted.
Anwar Muslim, President of Kobani Canton
The Kurdistan Region has become a positive example of successful progress towards reconciliation and openness.
Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister, KRG
Anyone occupying a political position should not serve one sect.
Ali Bapeer, Leader of Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal)
KRG is not calling for independence but for strengthening unity through power-sharing with Baghdad.
Ashti Hawrami, Minister for Natural Resources, KRG
People of Kirkuk need to come up with good solutions and a common vision for the future.
Hassan Toran, Head of Turkmen Front Coalition

We, at MERI, welcome you to apprise us with your feedback on the Forum and how to improve it further. A feedback form for the Forum is available here.  

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