ERBIL — Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Wednesday reaffirmed Erbil’s commitment to defending the values it shares with the United States.
The remarks were made during a ceremony to mark the completion of the construction of the US Consulate General compound in Erbil, where US representatives and Kurdish officials were present.
PM Barzani referred to a previous conversation with Ambassador Matthew Tueller, saying that the top American diplomat had stated that “building the biggest US consulate in the world in Erbil” is a sign for US’ commitment to show its long-standing support for the Kurdistan Region.
Below is the transcript of PM Barzani’s remarks at the ceremony:
We meet at an important time and in an important place. All around us are living memories of the strong partnership between Kurdistan and the United States.
As President Biden told President Barzani earlier this year, we have lived through some tough moments together. We are bound together of course by a long-standing friendship. But we are bound together by more than that. We are bound together by shared values and by the will to stand together to defend those values.
Six years ago, when we stood alongside each other to support those fleeing persecution of ISIS, the first U.S. airstrike took place just 40 miles from here in Makhmour, helping the Peshmerga turn the tide against a common enemy.
We were at the vanguard of the struggle to defeat ISIS from reaching Europe and beyond and we did so as much to protect US values as to protect ourselves. The war against ISIS was a recent example of our two nations working collaboratively to defeat a common foe. But it is not new.
In 1991, the United States summoned a global coalition, and the largest humanitarian mission in history, to protect our people from genocide. Thanks to American and allied pilots, aid fell from the skies to over 1.5m our people stranded in brutal conditions in the nearby mountains.
And in April this year, on the 30th anniversary of that humanitarian intervention, many words were said about our relationship, not least that we have an enduring relationship and a “strategic partnership”. Indeed, we do.
The strength of the bonds established between our two nations has been tested by developments here and abroad.
In 2003, we robustly supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, opening the path to the liberation of our people.
In 2005, the United States and International Community helped create the conditions for permanent federal constitution, which calls Iraq a free union of people, land and sovereignty, a recognition of our shared principles and way of life.
These seminal moments, and shared values have made us firm friends.
I know recent regional events, in particular in Afghanistan, have brought home to all of us the threat of oppression and uncertainty.
The Kurdish nation has endured more than our fair share of uncertainty, and we have shouldered increasing burdens while remaining true to our principles.
In our region the war with ISIS is not over. ISIS remains a threat. To our shared values. To regional peace and stability. And to the world.
But as long as we stand together, our resilience cannot be shaken. The Peshmerga have proven their ability and commitment to fight and defeat ISIS on the battlefield. The United States has proven its commitment to stand with us as partners.
When I urged Ambassador Matthew Tueller earlier this year how important it was to show US public commitment to Kurdistan, he said: Well, Mr Prime Minister, we are building the biggest U.S. consulate in the world in Erbil. What more can we do?
Today, in the spirit of our friendship, I welcome the completion of the new compound. And I feel strongly, as I hope my Americans colleagues do, that this building becomes a living symbol of America’s commitment to Kurdistan.
I’m deeply optimistic about the future of our partnership. It goes far beyond the support to the Peshmerga and the war on ISIS.
It is captured through the growing American footprint in Kurdistan, from businesses, restaurants and schools, to tourists and people-to-people ties. Earlier this month, DFC announced a $250m private investment in our oil and gas sector, an affirmation of the opportunities available and the investor-friendly climate.
But there is more to be done.
I hope to see more investment in our agriculture, tourism, and industry. I’m also deeply passionate about the environment and clean energy, and look forward to exploring opportunities in these areas, in particular with flaring, petrochemical and gas.
American companies can always be assured of a warm welcome in Kurdistan. My government stands ready to do everything we can to build on our already strong relationship.
We have a lot to look forward to.
Thank you again for all you are doing. I look forward to visiting again to the full inauguration of this compound.