ERBIL — During a ceremony on Wednesday which marked the structural completion of the US Consulate General’s new compound in Erbil, Robert Palladino, the US Consul General, said the massive project will help the relations between Erbil and Washington grow bigger.
The new compound is the largest consulate general ever built in the world. It covers an area of 52,000 square meters, expected to be ready for US diplomatic mission to move in by the end of 2022.
Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, accompanied by several high-level KRG officials, were present at the ceremony, where Consul General Palladino reiterated his country’s commitment to supporting the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Bellow is CG Palladino’s speech delivered at the ceremony:
Your Excellency Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, other distinguished members of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and Iraqi Kurdistan Region Presidency.
Good evening. It is my pleasure to welcome all of you here today to celebrate the special bond between the people and governments of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the United States of America.
The last time many of you were in this location was for the groundbreaking ceremony on July 6, 2018. At that time, all of this was nothing but an empty field.
Two years have passed and today the field is no longer empty. We have been very hard at work. We even worked through the pandemic. And today we are proud to say that we have reached a significant architectural milestone: this morning we finished pouring the very last of the concrete. That means that today, on September 22, 2021, we can say - for the very first time - the new consulate is structurally complete. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us.
The United States Consulate sits in the shadow of the beautiful Safeen Mountain on this beautiful land. The consulate is now almost 60% completed, and we are proud that we have been able to provide good jobs to so many people from the Kurdistan region; over 600 people are working to help us finish the project.
We have now poured over 75,000 cubic meters of concrete and installed close to 10,000 tons of steel beams.
When the consulate is 100 percent finished in late 2022, it will represent the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, environmental sustainability, and construction.
The consulate will be LEED certified. LEED certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED certification means that we are building a healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green building that will be a globally recognized symbol of sustainability, achievement, and leadership right here in Erbil.
We are so proud that the new consulate will be at least Silver LEED-certified, and every day our great construction team is looking for ways to improve upon that. We are even going to install a significant number of solar panels that will generate 15 percent of the electricity consumed by the consulate.
Needless to say, we all are looking forward to moving into this new consulate in January 2023.
But I must say one more important thing about the consulate - perhaps the most important thing - and it is this: the United States consulate will be big. Really big. How big? 52,000 square meters. That means the United States Consulate General in Erbil will be the largest consulate in the world.
Why is the United States building the largest consulate in the world here in Erbil?
The reason the United States is building the largest consulate in the world here in Erbil is because the relationship between the United States and Kurdistan region needs room to grow bigger.
The new consulate will be a tangible sign – in concrete, steel, and reinforced glass -- of the long-term commitment of the United States to the Kurdistan region’s government and people.
The new consulate will be a landmark for all who drive along 150 Meter Road that the United States is Present, that the United States is Resolved, and that the United States is staying in the Kurdistan region and Iraq.
We believe that the United States and Kurdistan region are better together.
The United States contributes to the stability of the Kurdistan region and Iraq, and we intend to partner with the Kurdistan Regional Government and its people to build a stronger and more prosperous Kurdistan Region within a unified and federal Iraq.
The American presence in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region brings great benefits and stability.
And, of course, Americans and the people of the Kurdistan Region have a special relationship that dates back decades. So even as we look forward, it’s also important to look backward and to remember.
We will always remember 1991, when the United States and our Allies sponsored a safe haven in northern Iraq, where a no-fly zone kept the Kurds and other inhabitants of the region safe. That American safety provided the fertile ground from which a beautiful and autonomous Kurdistan Region could grow and flourish. And while America patrolled the skies above, over the years that followed, we watched and admired the people of the Kurdistan Region holding elections, setting up their own social services, and educating their children in Kurdish and other local languages.
We remember 2005, when Mam Jalal, the first president of post-Baath Iraq, visited President Bush in the White House, and after their meeting they did a press conference together in the East Room. At the end, President Talabani called on a journalist from the Voice of America, and the journalist was Kurdish, and he asked his question, and then President Talabani, standing in the White House, answered in Kurdish—that was the first time a head of state spoke the language in the White House and it was heard around the world.
We remember when ISIS threatened the Kurdistan region, Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga were instrumental, and with American airpower, we worked together to stop the offensive and keep them out of Erbil. As a result, Kurdish heroism gained global legitimacy and popularity.
Today we have thousands of Kurdish-Americans living in the United States, including 11,000 in Nashville’s Little Kurdistan, and 26,000 American citizens living in the Kurdistan region.
We must build the biggest consulate in the world right here because I believe more than ever that the special bond between the United States and the people of this region will endure and our partnership needs room to grow.
As we look to the future, today the United States is assisting our Kurdish partners to reform the Peshmerga. We have provided over $250 million in security assistance in recent years, military equipment, and training. As a result, the courageous Peshmerga soldiers who helped to repel ISIS are now in a better position to secure this region for generations: the United States is convinced that a more unified Peshmerga means a stronger and more unified Kurdistan Region and a better Iraq, and there is much more we hope to do.
But our relationship is not based on security alone. It is much broader than that. We want our work to include areas that matter to the Iraqi Kurdistan people and in which the United States and the Kurdistan Region share common interests. These include increasing economic growth, fighting the pandemic, countering corruption, preserving the Kurdistan Region’s amazing cultural heritage, protecting the environment, and strengthening education, healthcare, and rule of law.
The United States is the largest humanitarian assistance donor to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Iraq. Our funding provides critical shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, protection services such as gender-based violence response, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services throughout Iraq. American assistance also helps support access to civil documentation and legal services, improves the capacity of health care facilities, and increases access to education and livelihood opportunities. Since 2014, the United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance in Iraq and for Iraqis in the region.
The United States stands with the Kurdistan Region in the fight against the pandemic. We have donated over 70,000 Pfizer vaccines to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and we hope to do more. We funded the establishment of an Isolation Unit for Covid-19 patients in Duhok, we donated ambulances to the KRG Ministry of Health, and we gave refrigerator trucks to the Sulaymaniyah health directorate. The United States does this so that Iraqi Kurdistan’s brave medical professionals can safely give patients the best care possible.
The United States believes firmly that the private sector is the engine of economic growth, and we aid the business sector and help small businesses to grow in Kurdistan. In 2021, the consulate’s great United States Agency for International Development supported more than 50 startups in the Kurdistan region to help young people start and expand their businesses. It was the United States, for example, that helped Lezzoo, the popular food delivery service, to secure capital and expand their services.
And the United States consulate is helping to create jobs. We are employing over 600 people from the Kurdistan region to build this very consulate. The consulate is also actively encouraging American companies to open franchises and work here, and with more American companies comes more and better jobs. With a bigger American consulate will come even more commercial diplomacy and trade.
The United States is working to make the lives of people living in this region better. The United States recently announced that we would finance $250 million dollars of the Khor Mor gas plant expansion project in the Kurdistan Region. American financing will increase access to clean and cheaper natural gas for electricity and industry for the people of the region.
And for our journalist friends in the audience tonight, here is a bit news. Tonight I am proud to announce a brand new $1 million dollar program dedicated solely to supporting the agriculture sector of the Kurdistan region. The consulate’s great United States Agency for International Development today launches an Agribusiness Incubator and Accelerator Program that will help develop the agricultural sector in the Kurdistan Region. This 12-month program will promote local consumption of Kurdistan region agricultural products by building market links and it will facilitate new public-private sector partnerships.
Americans respect the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s history and culture, and we are devoting significant time, effort, and money to support the diverse religious and cultural heritage that exists in this region. The United States is proud to fund projects totaling more than $11 million dollars that are preserving and restoring cultural heritage sites in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk, Babylon and Mosul. For example, it is the United States who is helping to restore the Hamam in the Erbil Citadel, the Yezidi Temple in Lalish, the Badinan Gate in Amedi, and the Synagogue of Ezekiel in Shush.
It is the United States that is supporting the efforts of the Sulaymaniyah Museum and the Kurdish Heritage Institute to digitize and preserve cultural artifacts and train archaeologists in excavating so that your rich culture can be enjoyed by all, for generations to come.
The United States invests extensively in education in the Kurdistan Region because we believe the youth of this region are the future. We are so proud to send talented students to the United States and to help local students, teachers, and staff. The United States is proud to have supported so many Kurdistan region universities:
- University of Sulaymaniyah
- University of Duhok
- Salahaddin University Erbil
- Duhok University
- Erbil Polytechnic University
- Halabja, Charmo, and Garmian Universities
- Iraqi Kurdistan Region Rural Universities Program
- University of Raparin in Rania
- University of Kurdistan Hawler
- American University of Iraq - Sulaymaniah
- American University of Kurdistan
The United States does all of this important work because we believe in the future of our relationship, and we believe that deepening our ties contributes to the overall stability and security of the Kurdistan region and Iraq. President Biden has said that a secure Iraq will lead to a secure Middle East, and that is in the best interest of everyone.
The United States’ commitment to the Kurdistan Region and Iraq is rock-solid. Our commitment is long-term and our future looks bright. The United States will remain a reliable partner of the Kurdistan region and Iraq.
In closing, this year marks 10 years since we opened our consulate’s doors. We have so much to show for those 10 years. Soon we will open these new, much larger doors. The largest consulate in the world will operate in Erbil. I know we will do even more together because the United States and Kurdistan region are better together. Thank you.